GOP demands pledge to back candidate for first presidential debate

The Republican National Committee is asking presidential candidates to pledge support for the party’s eventual nominee if they want to participate in the first GOP primary debate in Milwaukee on Aug. 23.

The pledge comes as a handful of Republican presidential hopefuls covered whether they would support former President Donald Trump should he win the party’s presidential nomination.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is expected to announce his candidacy for president next week, told Axios earlier this year that he could never support Trump again.

Other potential Republican candidates, like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, have taken a different route: Sununu has argued that while he will support the nominee, Trump will not be that person next year.

And Trump himself didn’t say whether he would sign such a pledge: “There are probably people I wouldn’t be very happy to endorse who show up, so we’ll see,” he said. in March.

NBC News also reported that Trump was considering skipping the early Republican debates.

Republicans will hold their first presidential primary debate in Wisconsin in late August. The field will meet on August 23, and if enough applicants have qualified, the RNC will add another event on August 24. The first Democratic debates in 2019 and the Republican debates in 2015 split the candidates over several days due to the size of the field. .

In addition to pledging to support the candidate, the party also wants candidates to meet a series of polling and fundraising thresholds and pledge not to participate in any debates not sponsored by the RNC.

Last year, the RNC voted to demand that its candidates not join general election debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan group that has been organizing presidential debates for general elections for decades, all over the world. along the 2020 race between Trump and Joe Biden.

Potential Republican presidential debaters will also have to meet broad polling requirements, reaching at least 1% in three national qualifying polls conducted after July 1 – or in two national polls plus a poll from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.

The RNC did not identify a list of sanctioned pollsters, but instead published broad methodological criteria that it would accept in qualifying polls. Two of the criteria: a sample size of at least 800 likely Republican registered voters and results that were not “overly” weighted.

Sample size could be a big issue: relatively few pollsters — including many media-partnered companies — reach as many respondents in primary polls, in part because of the high costs associated with phone calls .

For example, the latest NBC News poll in August surveyed 1,000 total registered voters.

Republican candidates will also need to fundraise from a minimum of 40,000 unique donors, including 200 unique donors from at least 20 states and territories, according to recently released RNC criteria.

Defining donor thresholds isn’t new, as Democrats included a similar requirement for their debates in the 2020 election cycle. But in the first Democratic debate in 2019, candidates could qualify either by poll or by crossing a fundraising threshold. The Republicans, this time, demand that their candidates touch both.

Ahead of the Democratic Party’s first debate in 2019, the party said 14 of its candidates had reached both the party’s 65,000 unique donor threshold and its polling threshold in time for that debate.

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