GOP Abandons Presidential Debate Commission

The party unanimously voted to break with the bipartisan group that has organized presidential debates for 34 years.

The Republican National Committee voted Thursday to pull out of the Commission on Presidential Debates, the group that has organized debates between the leading candidates for president for every presidential election since 1988.

“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates,” Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Today, the RNC voted to withdraw from the biased CPD, and we are going to 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.”

President Donald Trump skipped the second presidential debate for the 2020 election, and Republicans have repeatedly complained about the selection of moderators and the members of the commission’s board, which is split equally between Democrats and Republicans. Some of the group’s GOP members were critical of Trump in 2016 and 2020.

The party and Trump’s campaign also complained about the relatively late start to the debates in 2020 — the first debate was held after 26 states had already begun early voting.

The nonprofit commission was jointly founded by the Democratic and Republican national committees in 1987.

McDaniel indicated GOP nominees would continue to participate in debates. But reaching an agreement between Republican and Democratic nominees on locations, formats and moderators could be difficult without an organizer. After the first televised presidential debate in 1960, candidates did not agree to any debates in 1964, 1968 or 1972.

It’s also not clear if the Republican nominee would be bound by the RNC’s decision, since any general election debate would happen after they’ve secured the nomination.

The RNC earlier warned the commission it might pull out of the debates, sending letters requesting reforms both in June and in January.

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