RNC Quietly Drops Threat to Disqualify Debate Candidates Over “Unsanctioned” Event

(RightWing.org) – Republicans decided not to adopt a new platform during the party’s 2020 national convention. However, party officials did formally adopt its rules and updated them in mid-April 2022. That 48-page document empowered the Temporary Committee on Presidential Debates (TCPD) to enforce the “qualifying criteria” for participants as outlined in those rules. The TCPD recently reversed an earlier threat to disqualify candidates if they participated in an outside group’s gathering.

The criteria for debates, as outlined in the Rules of the Republican Party and the committee’s published qualifications for each presidential match, required eligible candidates to submit a written, signed pledge not to participate in any “non-RNC sanctioned” debate during the rest of the campaign cycle.

On November 11, news outlets reported that the TCPD categorized an upcoming “Thanksgiving Family Forum” as an unsanctioned debate. As such, any Republican participating in that event would be banned from participating in all future GOP presidential debates. However, the following day, the panel later worked out a deal with the conservative Iowa Christian group to allow presidential hopefuls to attend the event without the threat of disqualification.

The Iowa-based organization billed the Republican hopefuls’ appearance at the one-day event as an opportunity to “gather around [a] table” and participate in a “moderated, friendly and open discussion” about issues of great importance to “evangelical Americans today.” RealClear Politics apparently stirred up a hornets’ nest when the media company broke the story that RNC officials (likely the TCPD) warned the 2024 hopefuls not to attend the roundtable discussion/debate.

Several of the candidates’ campaign committees reportedly reached out to party officials and urged them to reconsider. They said they felt stuck in the middle of an ugly flare-up between Bob Vander Plaats, the Family Leader Foundation’s head, and members of the GOP leadership team. Considering the importance of the Iowa election results and Plaats’ reputation as a “kingmaker,” their concerns appeared well-founded.

Fortunately, the TCPD decided to heed those concerns and indicated it had reversed its decision without providing any comment on the matter.

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