WASHINGTON (The Hill) — The Republican National Committee (RNC) voted Thursday to withdraw from the commission responsible for organizing presidential debates, taking a line from former President Donald Trump. He has repeatedly leveled accusations of anti-Republican bias against the group.
The unanimous vote by the RNC effectively bars its presidential nominees from participating in events organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has run such debates since 1988. In a statement released shortly after the vote, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that the GOP would “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.”
“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates,” she said. “The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.”
Thursday’s vote makes good on a threat that the RNC has been holding over the CPD for months. In another escalating step, the RNC warned the commission last month against fundraising on the idea that the next GOP nominee will participate in the 2024 debates.
Should Trump mount another bid for the White House in 2024 and secure the GOP nomination, the RNC rule change virtually guarantees that he won’t participate in the traditional debate calendar. Of course, if Republicans tap someone else for the nomination, the party could always change its rules again, and the eventual nominee will likely have the ultimate say on whether to participate.
The CPD was founded in 1987 with the sponsorship of both major political parties. While both Democrats and Republicans have complained occasionally over the years about how the commission handles debates, antipathy toward the group has grown among Republicans in recent years amid Trump’s criticism of the commission.