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RNC Releases Details, Requirements for First Presidential Primary Debate

A requirement that losing candidates sign a pledge agreeing to support the eventual GOP nominee drew fiery responses on Twitter. Some argued the polling standards are too low and will lead to an over-crowded debate stage.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Republican National Committee (RNC) published its official guidelines for the first presidential primary debate, drawing a wave of criticism on social media in the process.

The first debate is set for Wednesday, August 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A second debate will be held on August 24 if the pool of candidates is large enough to make it necessary.

The requirements increase the possibility of a larger pool of candidates by setting the bar relatively low for polling qualifications. In order to participate in the debate, candidates must poll at 1 percent in three national polls or 1 percent in two national polls and one early state poll. They are also required to have a minimum of 40,000 unique donors.


The qualification that garnered the most chatter online is a requirement that each candidate sign a pledge agreeing to support the eventual nominee. On Twitter, many users argued this was designed for former president Donald Trump.

“It's an unwritten rule that now has to be written due to [Trump],” one woman wrote.

Another user took issue with the principle itself, writing: “The gop has no right to commandeer your vote in order to participate in debates.”

In his reaction to the requirements, conservative pundit and Trump loyalist Jack Posobiec quipped: “That will make for some nice 2nd-tier debates.”


Other users argued that 1 percent polling requirement is too low, bemoaning the 2016 primary debates that featured 11 candidates on stage.

“Honestly 1% is too low of a bar,” one man tweeted. “Let’s make it 5%. At least 40 people polled in a poll of 800 think you have what it takes.”

“Polling needs to be at 3% at least,” another man suggested. “Or better yet, the top five in polling. No more 17 people garbage.”

There are currently eight declared candidates in the race, including: Trump, former VicePresident Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), conservative talk show host Larry Elder, former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.


The debates have always played an important role in primary races, but have only recently become an entertaining spectacle.

In 2016, Trump won over voters with his pejorative nicknames, crass humor and politically incorrect insults, turning what was once largely a dry dialogue into a humorous back-and-forth. His participation – which remains up in the air – will undoubtedly have a major impact on the viewership.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told CNN in February that she expects Trump to sign the pledge, as he did in 2016. She declined to say whether or not the RNC would block the former president participating in the debate if he refused to sign the pledge.

“I think they all want to be on the debate stage,” McDaniel said. “I think President Trump would like to be on the debate stage. That’s what he likes to do.”