Presidential debates could very well be a thing of the past, with members of the RNC voting on Thursday the bar its candidates from appearing at debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
“Today, the RNC voted to withdraw from the biased CPD, and we are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people,” RNC spokeswoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
The move marks a consequential change, moving away from how the debates have been conducted for decades. While McDaniel acknowledged that “debates are an important part of the Democratic process,” she argued that the Commission on Presidential Debates has refused to enact “commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates,” such as hosting debates before early or absentee voting begins and selecting moderators without ties to a certain candidate.
GOP presidential candidates will now be required to sign a pledge, committing to only appear at party-sanctioned primary and general election debates, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The development comes after the RNC in January threatened to amend its rules to effectively bar future presidential candidates seeking nomination from participating in debates from the Commission on Presidential Debates, citing what the GOP chairwoman likewise called bias against Republicans.
In a letter to the debate commission, the RNC detailed its communication with and grievances toward the commission, threatening to pull candidates from all commission-sponsored debates if its “credibility” with the Republican Party was not mended.
“As long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere,” McDaniel wrote.
Among the RNC’s list of failures by the commission, it took issue with waiting until after early voting had begun to host the first presidential debate, making changes to previously agreed-upon debate formats, selecting a moderator who had previously worked for a Democratic nominee and neglecting to maintain nonpartisanship. The group encouraged the commission to address its “glaring failures” with changes that include term limits for board members, establishing criteria for selecting debate moderators and enacting a code of conduct for moderators, among others requests.
“The RNC has shared our concerns with the CPD in good faith, carefully documenting why the party and its voters have lost faith in your organization, and we have proposed commonsense reforms that would restore trust in the debates process,” McDaniel wrote. “Unfortunately, neither the tone nor substance of your latest response inspires confidence that the CPD will meaningfully address the serious issues which the RNC has raised.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison responded to the RNC’s move in January in a statement, saying that the group “would rather hide their ideas and candidates from voters.” Harrison added that regardless of the RNC’s “tantrum,” they “can count on hearing from President Biden and Vice President Harris who are proud of their records.”
“Republicans can’t win a fair fight and they know it,” Harrison said.