Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel has issued a warning to former President Donald Trump stating it will be a mistake for him to skip the party’s primary debates as the 2024 election campaigning heats up.
During an interview with Fox News, McDaniel said that she wants everyone who qualifies on the debate stage, adding that the expected audience of 20 million people represents a unique opportunity for the GOP to present its policy proposals and contrast itself to the Biden administration.
“Why wouldn’t we get in front of them before we go against Joe Biden? Joe Biden has the legacy media on his side. So leaving that opportunity aside and not getting on the debate stage is just more of an opportunity for Joe Biden to continue to get his message out,” McDaniel said.
The first GOP primary debate is scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a key battleground state.
In order to qualify for the debate stage, each candidate must be eligible to run, have already declared their candidacy, and have active candidacy forms filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Each candidate must also have at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state. Each person must also be polling at at least one percent in three national polls, or one percent in two national polls and one percent in an early state poll from two “carve out” states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) recognized by the RNC.
Also, each candidate must sign a pledge agreeing to share data, to not participate in any non-RNC sanctioned debate for the duration of the election cycle, and support the eventual party nominee.
Trump said during an interview last month that he would likely skip the debate because he doesn’t want to spar with candidates with low poll numbers.
“You’re leading people by 50 and 60 points and you say, why would you be doing a debate — it’s actually not fair,” Trump said. “Why would you let somebody that’s at zero, or one or two or three, be popping you with questions?”
Saul Anuzis, a Republican strategist and former chair of the Michigan GOP, says that politically it would not be good strategy to take a candidate out so far ahead and put him onto a primary debate stage.
“The political reality is that as a candidate who’s so far out ahead, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for him to put himself in the firing line,” Anuzis said.
However, others have suggested that Trump’s absence could provide a “springboard” for other candidates who seize the spotlight and make a case for why voters should move on from Trump.
Last week, one of Trump’s senior advisors said the campaign was still leaning toward skipping the debates, but added that the decision was not yet definitive.
McDaniel reiterated the opportunity for candidates, including Trump, to highlight many of the issues plaguing Americans and offer conservative policies as the solution.
“And we have an opportunity to take up all the oxygen in the room and get on that debate stage and talk about the fact that eighth and fourth graders, right now, two thirds of them aren’t reading or math proficient,” she said. “Talk about 101,000 deaths from fentanyl, talk about our border, talk about the crime surge, talk about what we’re gonna do to turn the ship around under Republican leadership after the failure of Joe Biden. So I think it’s a mistake to not do the debates. But that’s gonna be up to him and his campaign.”
Trump has as high as a 40-point lead over second place challenger Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to some recent polling.