High-ranking officials at the Republican National Committee (RNC) are set to discuss a proposal that would enable candidates to take part in presidential debates that have not received the approval of the national party.
This potential change in the rules of the nominating process coincides with increasing pressure from former President Donald Trump to cancel all remaining official debates.
Other candidates have also criticized the party for not allowing additional opportunities for candidates to engage with each other. The RNC has not scheduled any debates beyond the upcoming event in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Since the 2016 election cycle, the RNC has established control over the presidential debate process, setting qualification standards, limiting the number of debates, and requiring candidates to pledge not to participate in any debates outside of the party-sanctioned process. Violating this pledge can result in candidates being barred from future party-sanctioned events.
The Republican National Committee declined to comment on these developments.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has voiced his disapproval of the RNC rules and expressed openness to “more freewheeling debates” outside of the party’s official framework. He even proposed a one-on-one, hour-long debate with Trump.
DeSantis has called for debates before both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, but the RNC has yet to commit to organizing them.
DeSantis stated on November 20 during a town hall on Newsmax, “Whether the RNC should be the ones controlling that, I don’t know if that is necessarily the right way.”
The RNC will be hosting its fourth debate at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, moderated by conservative news networks such as NewsNation, the Washington Free Beacon, the “Megyn Kelly Show” on Sirius XM, and Rumble, a video hosting service.
DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are expected to attend, while former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is still hoping to qualify.
Trump and his advisors have repeatedly pressured the RNC to cease organizing debates, expressing frustration that RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and the committee have continued to do so.
McDaniel and her supporters maintain that she has endeavored to hold fair debates and maintain neutrality throughout the nominating process, although she has not yet released a schedule for debates in the coming year.
Trump has criticized her for her neutrality in the race.
During the 2016 primary, the Republican Party held 12 debates between August and December 2015, followed by additional debates in the following year. There were more debates in 2008 and 2012, as the national party had not imposed restrictions on the process at that time.
The party decided to take control of the debate process in order to prevent an excessive number of debates that would dilute the process and distract candidates from campaigning, according to McDaniel.
It is unlikely that Trump will participate in debates outside of the official RNC system, despite his polling lead. However, if the RNC withdraws from its role in organizing debates, other candidates will be free to engage in smaller gatherings. Christie and Ramaswamy previously expressed their discontent when the RNC advised them against participating in a joint appearance on Fox News.
Ramaswamy posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, “The GOP needs more actual argument on substance, not fake one-liners. I agreed to spar with @ChrisChristie tomorrow for a full hour on Fox at 6 p.m. with @BretBaier,” in response to the RNC’s decision.
The RNC has previously stated that any candidates participating in unsanctioned debates would be excluded from future party-sanctioned events. Christie expressed his concerns on social media platform X, saying, “Voters need more information not less.
Our Party needs more debates and in-depth discussions not less. This is common sense and the bedrock of our Republic. When the RNC stops conversations between candidates from happening, that is a real cause for concern.”