Aug 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott signs RNC loyalty pledge

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) speaks to guests at the Republican Party of Iowa 2023 Lincoln Dinner on July 28 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott signed the loyalty pledge vowing to support the party's eventual nominee, making him the fifth candidate to do so and meet the debate qualifications.

Why it matters: The pledge has drawn criticism from some Republican candidates hesitant to back frontrunner former President Trump, who himself said this week that he would not sign the pledge.

Driving the news: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have also signed the pledge.

  • An adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence said that he will meet all the debate requirements, including signing the pledge.
  • The pledge is the last hurdle to qualify for the Aug. 23 debate, which also had donor and polling thresholds set by the Republican National Committee.
  • A spokesperson for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also appeared to meet the donor and polling thresholds to qualify, did not respond to Axios' request for comment on whether the candidates plan to sign the pledge.

Trump, who has not yet committed to participating in the Aug. 23 debate, said this week that he won't sign it. "Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn't have?" Trump told Newsmax.

The big picture: The RNC has not said directly if there will be repercussions if a candidate signs the pledge but doesn't back the nominee in the end.

  • Christie, a vocal Trump critic, said previously that he would take the pledge "just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016."
  • Trump signed a similar pledge in 2015 to support the eventual nominee, but abandoned it during a debate later that cycle.
  • RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has defended the pledge, telling Chris Wallace last month: "If you don't want to support the Republican nominee, go run independent or run for a different party, but this is the Republican Party nomination and you should be able to support the nominee."

The RNC said earlier this year that candidates seeking to qualify for the August debate will need 40,000 unique donors, including at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in at least 20 states and/or territories.

  • They also need at least 1% support in three independent national polls or two national polls and one independent poll from two of four early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Go deeper: 5 burning questions for the first Republican debate

Editor's note: This article has been updated to show that Gov. Burgum has signed the pledge.

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