Republicans set debate rules, creating obstacles for long shots in 2024 primary election

By Gram Slattery and Nathan Layne

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican National Committee on Friday announced relatively tough limits on who can participate in the first presidential primary debate of 2024, posing a potential challenge for several longtime candidates.

The RNC, the governing body of the Republican Party, will also ask all attendees to support the eventual Republican nominee, the body announced on Friday. The commitment requirement is notable because former President Donald Trump, who is leading in the polls, has neither promised to endorse a candidate nor confirmed that he will attend the debates.

Debate rules will require a candidate to reach 1% support in three national polls and record 40,000 individual donations in order to qualify for the debate in Milwaukee, which is scheduled for Aug. 23.

Applicants will also need to receive donations from at least 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states and territories, the RNC said.

Instead of reaching 1% in three national polls, the RNC said candidates could instead reach 1% in two national polls, as well as 1% in at least one statewide poll in the ‘Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada declares that they hold their votes early in the nomination process.

The rules will almost certainly limit the number of candidates on the debate stage compared to previous election cycles. In the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process, for example, some 17 candidates participated in the first debate.

Reaching the debate stage is seen as essential for primary candidates – especially those whose names are little known. Not getting to the end of a debate often spells the death knell for campaigns.

There are several longtime candidates who may struggle to meet the necessary thresholds, such as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and businessman Perry Johnson.

In addition to Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and U.S. Senator Tim Scott will almost certainly cross the threshold.

The RNC’s arrangement may allow them to take on Trump without also deflecting attacks from several low-key suitors, advisers said.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery and Nathan Layne; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Marguerita Choy)

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