The rift between President Trump, conservative constitutionalists, and the established Republican party began to widen immediately following the 2020 election.
Particularly with the replacement of the House Speaker and the inability to straddle the line between uniparty leaners and conservatives, the RNC’s quagmire has come to light.
In 2024, President Trump has emerged as the preeminent Republican candidate, far in front of all other contenders. Consequently, he does not perceive any utility in participating in the televised debates, as they fail to contribute to the advancement of his campaign.
The remaining candidates have taken part in the four debates that the RNC has presided over; however, at this time, the RNC has made the decision to discontinue further debates. The RNC made this announcement on Friday, alluding to the fact that only candidates with low polling numbers are participating in an implicit manner.
In the latest FiveThirtyEight polls, Trump is favored by 53% to 79% of respondents. In the various polls today, Haley (9% to 24%) and DeSantis (7% to 25%) are the only candidates trailing him by a double-digit margin. Four debates in his absence appear to be sufficient.
Politico reported the RNC statement on their reasoning:
The RNC’s decision, made by a 16-member internal body, means that any forthcoming debates will be hosted by networks independently of the committee. Two outlets — ABC and CNN — have announced plans to host future debates in Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of early state voting. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis already said he will attend CNN’s planned Iowa debate before next month’s caucuses and ABC’s planned New Hampshire debate.
“We have held four successful debates across the country with the most conservative partners in the history of a Republican primary. We have no RNC debates scheduled in January and any debates currently scheduled are not affiliated with the RNC,” the RNC’s Committee on Presidential Debates said in a statement.
“It is now time for Republican primary voters to decide who will be our next President and candidates are free to use any forum or format to communicate to voters as they see fit.”
The omission of Trump’s dismissal of the debates as unproductive in terms of engaging the American public or his absence as the frontrunner being addressed is not addressed.
The current FiveThirtyeight poll results place President Trump between 53% and 79%, which is rather apt in demonstrating that a discussion devoid of Trump is largely irrelevant.
Trump has opted to engage in interactions with Americans and deliver speeches regarding his platform during rallies. During his nationwide campaign, he has consistently climbed the polls in the midst of court appearances to defend against the Democrats’ ongoing persecution.
He has demonstrated that he is independent of RNC influence and can instead seek validation from the American public.
Former President Donald Trump has refused to participate in any of the RNC-sponsored debates. He has aggressively pressured RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to forgo hosting debates, arguing that he has a wide lead in the polls and that the committee should be focused on preparing for the general election.
The committee has encountered opposition from Trump’s less popular opponents, who contended that the party ought to grant candidates unrestricted access to a variety of forums and debates without imposing any negative consequences. Earlier this year, each candidate endorsed an RNC pledge stipulating their non-participation in any debate not authorized by the organization.
For the first time, the Republican candidates who are trailing will be exclusively featured in independent debates. The absence of a governing body for Republican debates creates a fertile ground for media influence to shape the narrative.
After CNN on Thursday evening announced plans to host a Jan. 21 debate at New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College, just three days after Saint Anselm had already announced that it will be hosting a debate with ABC News on Jan. 18. Neil Levesque, the executive director of the college’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, on Friday morning wrote on X: “We were surprised to be included on a press release by a network about a debate which we had not planned or booked.”
Reached for comment on Friday, a CNN spokesperson stood by their plans with the college saying in a statement: “We can’t speak to any miscommunication within Saint Anselm, but we are moving forward with our plans to host a debate in New Hampshire on January 21.”
Qualification thresholds will be established by media outlets rather than the RNC. Candidates must achieve a 10 percent approval rate in national and early-state surveys, according to CNN. As of yet, ABC News has not disclosed its benchmarks.
Thus, any future debates will be controlled by the media, and since Trump aides have stated repeatedly that he has no interest in debating those with significantly fewer votes than himself, any debate that occurs at this time will involve only those who are significantly trailing the former president.