WASHINGTON – The Republican Party took a step closer Thursday to eliminating presidential debates in the fall of 2024, voting to stop working with the foundation that has organized such debates since 1987.
“The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates,” said Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
The move underscores how former President Donald Trump reshaped and continues to reshape the GOP, with his complaints about debates in 2016 and 2020 laying the groundwork for the possible withdrawal of Republican candidates in the future.
McDaniel and other party members who voted unanimously to withdraw from cooperation with the commission said they want “freer and fairer debate platforms.” But it is unclear who might organize a new set of debates and whether the Democrats and their presidential candidate would agree to a new sponsor.
The RNC is also requiring Republicans to state in writing that they will only participate in party-sanctioned debates.
The Republicans are responding in part to complaints by Trump, who protested microphone muting and other aspects of his two debates against President Joe Biden in 2020. Trump refused to participate in one scheduled debate because the commission decided to hold it virtually instead of in-person because of the COVID pandemic.
And before the series of debates in 2016, Trump said he would prefer to face Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton without moderators because they were apt to “rig” the set-up against him.
Previously:Republicans to presidential debate commission: We won’t debate in 2024 unless there are changes
2020 flashback:Mics will be cut for portions of final presidential debate after commission adopts new rules
McDaniel said the party would continue to sanction debates among GOP candidates competing in party primaries. This decision applies only to general elections sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
In recent negotiations, Republicans said they wanted the first debates of 2024 to be held before the start of early voting periods. They also sought more say-so over the appointment of debate moderators, claiming past ones have been biased against Republicans.
The commission said it was set up in 1987 “to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates between or among the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States are a permanent part of the electoral process.”
Prior to Thursday’s vote, the Republicans have sought to discourage corporate contributions to the commission.
When the Republicans threatened to withdraw from the process in February, the Commission on Presidential Debates said its “plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues.”