Republicans National Committee to Permit Unofficial Debates

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has made the significant decision to allow GOP presidential candidates to participate in unsanctioned debates. This change comes as a departure from the RNC’s previous pledge, which had imposed restrictions on candidates partaking in debates not sanctioned by the RNC. In contrast, CNN has revealed that it will host two Republican presidential primary debates next month in Iowa and New Hampshire—the first two GOP contests in 2024. These debates are scheduled to take place on January 10 in Iowa and January 21 in New Hampshire, leading up to the caucus and primary in those states.

The Iowa Caucus is set for January 16, while the New Hampshire primary will follow on January 23. Moderator details for the CNN debates have not been disclosed. To qualify for the first CNN debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, candidates must meet specific criteria, including obtaining at least 10 percent in three separate Hawkeye State or national polls.

For the second debate at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, candidates must also poll at 10 percent in three separate Granite State or national polls of GOP voters, along with fulfilling other requirements. As such, former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appear to be the only qualifying candidates for these debates, while other candidates, including entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, would not meet the criteria.

DeSantis has confirmed his participation in the debate in Iowa, expressing, “Looking forward to debating in Iowa!” via his social media platform. Aside from the polling metrics, additional mandates include being a U.S. citizen, filing a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, and complying with the debate rules. It is improbable that former President Donald Trump will participate in the CNN debates, as he has declined all debates thus far and has openly criticized the network, referring to it as “fake news.”

On the same day, ABC News disclosed that it will host a debate in New Hampshire on January 18, also at Saint Anselm College. Details regarding the requirements to make the debate stage, moderators, and other pertinent information are yet to be announced. ABC News President Kim Godwin expressed her enthusiasm for hosting the Republican debate in New Hampshire, adding that the event will provide the audience with the opportunity to hear from the candidates at a critical juncture in the primary race.

The RNC decision and the subsequent debate announcements have followed the contentious debate on NewsNation in Alabama on December 6, which featured participants such as Ms. Haley, Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Ramaswamy, and Mr. Christie. The moves reflect an intensification of the GOP primary contest as it approaches the crucial early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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