RNC officials expected Trump to 'be a problem': report
This Wednesday, August 23 in Milwaukee, Fox News will host the Republican Party's first 2024 presidential debate. Absent from the debate will be GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who leads second-place candidate Ron DeSantis by 46 percent in a CBS News/YouGov poll released on August 20.
Trump simultaneously dissed both Fox News and the Republican National Committee (RNC), announcing on his Truth Social platform that he won't be participating. And during the debate, Trump's interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson will debut online.
RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel has demanded that Republican presidential candidates sign a "loyalty pledge" in order to participate in debates. In the pledge, candidates agree to eventually support the nominee — whether it's Trump, DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley or someone else. But Trump refused to sign it, and former Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) refused as well.
According to the Daily Beast's Jake Lahut, Trump's decision to skip the first debate comes as no surprise to RNC officials — who "knew he was going to be a problem."
Lahut, in an article published by the Daily Beast on August 22, explains, "Going back more than a year, the group charged with planning the GOP's first primary debates since 2016 discussed the likelihood that the former president would skip the first one if Fox News ended up hosting, according to two RNC members familiar with the discussions. At a more recent meeting, officials briefly entertained the idea of banning Trump from future debates if he didn't show up in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Yet on both occasions, the RNC officials decided the best response was to do nothing."
An RNC member, interviewed by the Beast on condition of anonymity, said of Wednesday night, August 24, "I think this could be the biggest Republican s****show we've seen in years."
Another RNC member told the Beast, "I think the thing to understand about the Republican Party is that it's very much a bottom-up organization."
A Republican source described by Lahut as someone "close to the RNC" told the Beast that the August 23 debate isn't a big deal to Trump's hardcore MAGA supporters.
According to that source, "Trump has uniquely broken what it means to be the Republican National Committee because he's broken what it means to be a Republican. I don't necessarily mean either of those things negatively. It's just that, do you think a blue-collar Trump supporter in the Heartland cares one bit about the RNC's role as some sort of 'clearing house' for who's a legitimate, viable Republican presidential candidate? Of course not."
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