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RNC threatens to bar candidates from presidential debates

6 days ago 11

Republicans have complained in recent years that the commission is biased against GOP candidates. That dissatisfaction came to a head in 2020, after a series of clashes between the commission and then-President Donald Trump and his allies.

In the summer before the election, Trump sought to have more debates scheduled and to hold them earlier in the calendar, among other changes that the committee ultimately decided against.

And in October 2020, the second of three scheduled debates between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was ultimately canceled. The former president’s Covid diagnosis prompted the commission to try to move the event to a virtual format — a change the Trump campaign vehemently opposed.

Trump also complained about the selection of moderators at the debates, particularly that of Steve Scully after the longtime C-SPAN anchor — who left the network last year — became the subject of controversy following an exchange with Anthony Scaramucci.

Scaramucci served briefly as a communications director in the Trump White House before becoming an ardent critic of the former president. Scully initially lied about messaging with Scaramucci — claiming his account had been hacked — before admitting that he had sent a message and being placed on administrative leave from C-SPAN shortly thereafter.

Trump also took issue with the choice of then-Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and NBC News’ Kristen Welker as moderators.

The RNC wants debates to be held earlier in 2024, before states start holding early voting periods. Many states expanded their use of early voting and mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, leading a substantial segment of voters to cast their ballot before the first presidential debate was held that year.

The RNC letter also detailed the communication it has had with the commission since March, which it says have not been fruitful toward addressing its concerns.

“Unfortunately, the CPD’s responses so far seem designed to delay any reform until it is too late to matter for the 2024 election,” McDaniel wrote. “The RNC therefore cannot simply ‘wait and see,’ as the CPD seems to suggest, but must act now. To do otherwise would forestall any meaningful reform and conveniently leave the CPD unaccountable for another election cycle.”

McDaniel wrote that the RNC intends to move forward with the rule change process as part of its winter meeting.

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