RNC withdraws from debate commission

By: Morgan Miles, STaff Writer

The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced on Wednesday that the organization would no longer attend debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The following day, the RNC unanimously voted to withdraw from the CPD, intending to participate in debates hosted through alternative platforms.

The CPD was established in 1987 as a bipartisan, nonprofit corporation. Democrats and Republicans created the CPD to ensure that the electoral process would permanently include Presidential debates. Since 1988, the CPD has hosted Presidential debates. The RNC’s withdrawal will put an end to over three decades of civic cooperation between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Grievances with the CPD have come up over time, but the RNC’s disapproval became especially pertinent in 2012. Former President Barack Obama’s reelection derived complaints from both parties. Democrats felt that moderator Jim Lehrer, of PBS NewsHour, let Republican nominee Mitt Romney disrespect the rules and the sitting president. Republicans felt that moderator Candy Crowley of CNN  corrected Romney during the debate.

In 2016, tensions arose again with former president Donald Trump’s election campaign. The perceived boiling point stems from the 2020 elections when Trump clashed with the CPD. Republicans not only felt that Trump was treated unfairly by the CPD during debates but also opposed the selection of the 2020 debate host: Steve Scully of C-SPAN

Scully interned for now-President Joe Biden in 1978; the RNC saw Scully as an inappropriate choice because he had connections with a candidate. 

Another complaint from the RNC surrounds the pandemic. Early voting and mail-in voting became popular methods for citizens to cast their votes for the 2020 election. The RNC disapproved of voting before presidential debates were held.

The CPD has rejected the RNC’s requests of holding debates before early voting and stopping the selection of debate moderators with any previous association with presidential candidates.

As early as January of 2022, Ronna McDaniel, Chair of the RNC, threatened to boycott the CPD. 

“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,” a CPD spokesperson said.

Despite the CPD’s response in January, the RNC went through with the vote to boycott. 

“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates,” affirmed McDaniel. “The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and common sense reforms to help ensure fair debates.”

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