Republicans set presidential debate rules that exclude some

The Republican National Committee said presidential candidates must attract 40,000 individual campaign donors and support at least 1 percent of voters in several national polls to qualify for the first debate with Fox News in Milwaukee. .

The filter, which requires candidates to pledge support for the party’s eventual nominee, is stricter than similar rules Democrats followed to set up their own first debate in 2019, when 20 candidates met over two nights. It allowed Democratic candidates to qualify by meeting the 65,000 donor threshold or receiving at least 1 percent in three state or national polls.

Republicans, by contrast, require both a donor and a polling standard. Polling standards require that a candidate be in the top 1 percent nationally in several polls deemed reliable by the RNC. If candidates show more than 1 percent in more than one national poll, there may be an option to use state polls, one said of the plan.

“The debates are not a vanity project, but an important opportunity to find the next president of the United States. If you can’t find 40,000 individual donors to give you a dollar and at least 1 percent of primary voters to support you, how can you defeat Joe Biden? RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The rules could challenge lesser-known candidates, including former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and California talk radio host Larry Elder, who are not listed by name in some national polls.

The Average of RealClearPolitics national polls Six candidates currently poll above 1 percent in national polls: former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramasamy and Sen. Tim Scott (SC).

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Current or potential candidates, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Elder and Hutchinson, average 1 percent or less.

Some candidates worry the rules could sideline their campaigns at the opening gate. The first Republican debates of the 2016 campaign season featured 17 candidates in two separate events.

“The RNC appears to be deliberately narrowing the field for the first time in the party’s history,” said one Republican consultant. There is no authority to discuss the matter publicly. “Instead of finding a way to make the many conservative voices heard by Republicans across the country, they’re trying to make this a two-man race.”

Republicans familiar with the process said they weren’t seeking too high a standard — but were keeping it from turning into a circus. The donor standard will rise for subsequent discussions. RNC officials argued that the national media’s coverage of the back-and-forth between Trump and DeSantis was responsible for any appearance that the nomination battle had become a two-person contest.

Trump, as the poll leader, has suggested he may skip the early Republican debates. He also said that he will not support the final candidate whoever the party chooses. His team is in talks with the party about the debates, The Washington Post reported.

Trump benefited from a large field of Republican challengers during the 2016 primaries, and he recently praised some of his rivals, including Ramasamy and Scott, as his campaign aides hope to divide opposition to his candidacy. Meanwhile, DeSantis’ team has made it clear that it sees the Florida governor’s race as a two-person contest.

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Ramasamy, a first-time candidate who has drawn support in early events, said his campaign already has the donors it needs to build its first debate platform. “We went through that a while ago. It’s in the rearview mirror,” he said during a recent interview.

Several other candidates, including Pence, Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, are expected to formally join the Republican race in the coming weeks.

Burgum, a wealthy former businessman who is not well known outside his state, said he could “absolutely” meet the donor limit, though he plans to self-fund part of his campaign. Asked if he could clear the 1 percent polling threshold, he said, “Yes.”

“There’s some idea that it’s going to be a completely self-funded thing. That’s completely wrong,” Burgum said in a recent interview. “I’ll invest in myself because I believe in myself.”

Counsel for Christie, Hutchinson, Sununu and Elder declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

RNC debate participants must sign data-sharing and fundraising agreements with the national party and pledge not to participate in any unauthorized debates.

Maeve Reston contributed to this report.

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