Jan 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

RNC threatens to block candidates from participating in official debates

The Commission on Presidential Debates banner is seen as the stage for the final presidential debate.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican National Committee on Thursday sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates threatening to block future GOP presidential nominees from sanctioned debates if "meaningful reforms" are not made.

Driving the news: "So 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," RNC chair Ronna McDaniel wrote.

  • "Accordingly, the RNC will initiate the process of amending the Rules of the Republican Party at our upcoming Winter Meeting to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates," McDaniel added.

The big picture: The Republican Party for nearly a decade has complained that the nonprofit debate commission — which has described itself as nonpartisan — has favored Democrats, according to the New York Times, which first reported on the move.

  • The RNC began discussions last year with the debate commission's co-chair, Frank Fahrenkopf, on concerns with the debates, per the letter.
  • In June, "the RNC wrote to the CPD outlining its serious missteps and the partisan actions of its board members, explaining that these actions have damaged the RNC’s faith that the CPD can provide a fair and impartial forum for presidential debates," per a timeline outlined in the letter.

The other side: "The CPD deals directly with candidates for President and Vice President who qualify for participation in the CPD’s general election debates," the commission wrote in a statement to Axios.

  • "The CPD’s 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."

What they're saying: "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," the RNC said.

  • "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."
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