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GOP sets conditions for its first primary debate, on August 23

The meeting will be held in Milwaukee, but only candidates with a minimum number of donors and voter intention will be eligible to participate

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus addresses the audience before the Republican candidates' debate in Miami March 2016.Carlo Allegri (REUTERS)
Miguel Jiménez

The date and place have been set. It remains to be seen who the participants will be. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has issued the rules for the first debate between the candidates for the nomination for the 2024 presidential election. The encounter will take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 23. Given how crowded the Republican primaries are, the RNC has set minimum qualifications for participation. If too many candidates meet the conditions, the debate would be held in two rounds: part of the candidates on August 23 and the rest the following day.

The great uncertainty, however, remains whether former president Donald Trump, favorite so far in the Republican primaries, will be willing to participate. Up to now he has given signs that he would prefer to stay on the fringes and not risk the comfortable lead he enjoys in the polls against Ron DeSantis, his strongest rival, and the rest of the candidates.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has announced that four types of criteria will have to be met to participate in the debate: candidate status, polling status, fundraising and candidate commitments. The first actually comes down to formally being a legally registered candidate.

For voting intention, the candidate must have at least 1% in three national polls or, alternatively, 1% in two national polls plus 1% in a statewide poll of two different early primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina). For a poll to be recognized by the RNC, the sample must be of at least 800 likely registered Republican voters, using a combination of live calling, integrated voice response, online panels and/or text messaging.

In addition, the poll must not give excessive weight to the responses of any individual cohort beyond the poll’s margin of error, must ask the presidential preference question prior to any question that might allow for potential bias, and must not be conducted by a polling firm linked to a candidate or candidate committee.

40.000 donors

To participate in the debates, candidates must have a minimum of 40,000 donors other than the candidate’s primary presidential campaign committee (or exploratory committee), with at least 200 donors per state or territory in more than 20 states and territories.

The RNC uses the organization of the debates to require candidates to make a number of commitments, including not participating in any debates not authorized by the RNC for the remainder of the election period and endorsing the party’s final candidate.

Compliance with all of these requirements must be accredited to the RNC no later than 48 hours prior to the first scheduled debate.

Candidates will be positioned on stage based on the polls, with the candidate with the highest voting intention in the center. Criteria for future debates may include higher thresholds for both polls and donors to make them more selective and eliminate candidates with no real options.

“The RNC is committed to putting on a fair, neutral, and transparent primary process and the qualifying criteria set forth will put our party and eventual nominee in the best position to take back the White House come November 2024,” Ronna McDaniel has stated in a press release.

The Republican primaries are hotly contested. The big favorite is Donald Trump. And his main rival is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Also, already in the Republican primary race are former U.S. ambassador to the UN and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley; the only black Republican senator, Tim Scott; former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchison; billionaire biotech entrepreneur and scourge of woke ideology Vivek Ramaswamy; fellow entrepreneur Perry Johnson; political commentator Larry Elder; and politician and businessman Rollan Roberts, son of the West Virginia senator with the same name.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an avowed Trump foe, are expected to make their candidacies official next week. In addition, other names are also being floated, some as probable, others more speculative, such as the governors of North Dakota, Doug Burgum; of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, and of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, among others.

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