RNC Members Firmly Behind Changes in Presidential Debates Former President Donald Trump was forced to have just one debate with then-candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election campaign, after wanting four. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Two weeks ago, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) saying, unless major changes in the format and timing of the presidential debates were made, the Republican nominee in 2024 would not participate.
As they arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday for their winter meeting, members of the RNC universally voiced their strong approval for McDaniel's "change or else" stand on debates.
"We want free and fair debates," the RNC's co-chair, Tommy Hicks of Florida, told Newsmax on Wednesday morning. "No Republican nominee should be forced to debate the Democratic nominee and the moderator as well."
Hicks' views were strongly echoed by New Hampshire's state GOP Chair Chris Agar.
"The current construct of debates is not acceptable," Agar said. "The selections of moderators, and the fact that some votes are being cast before the first debates, has got to change."
He added, "the preponderance of moderators in recent debates have leaned to the left."
Hicks, Agar, and other RNC members strongly backed up McDaniel's letter to the CPD in which she called for one debate before early voting begins, a code of conduct for CPD staffers, and regulations for the selection of moderators.
Failure to implement these changes, McDaniel wrote, means "the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere."
Michigan's Republican National Committeeman Rob Steele called McDaniel's proposal reasonable and said it is better "to work these things out now than, if we learn about the rules and moderator 24 hours before the debate. If we start complaining then, we look bad."
Steele was particularly concerned about the choice of moderators and cited the example of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney facing an obviously hostile moderator in CNN's then-correspondent Candy Crowley during his debate with Democrat Barack Obama.
Romney, for his part, told reporters the RNC "would be nuts" to block their nominee from participating in debates.
The 169-member RNC is expected Friday to support a resolution calling on its presidential candidates not to participate in debates unless the changes insisted upon are enacted by the CPD.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.