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GOP Schedules 1st Presidential Debate  06/03 08:05


   CHICAGO (AP) -- The first 2024 Republican presidential debate will be held 
Aug. 23, the Republican National Committee announced Friday, with a second 
debate the following night should it be needed.

   The RNC also detailed the criteria that will be used for candidates to 
qualify for the debate stage, including a pledge to support the eventual 
Republican presidential nominee. That requirement could keep some candidates 
off the stage, including former President Donald Trump, who hasn't committed to 
supporting the nominee if he doesn't emerge from the primary. Trump also has 
questioned why he would participate since he holds a commanding lead in GOP 
primary polls.

   The debate will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which also will be the site 
of the party's nominating convention next year. It's a nod to the importance of 
the battleground state, which is likely to be key to a presidential victory 
again in 2024.

   "The RNC is committed to putting on a fair, neutral, and transparent primary 
process and the qualifying criteria set forth will put our party and eventual 
nominee in the best position to take back the White House come November 2024," 
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.

   The list of candidates vying to face President Joe Biden next year has been 
growing. In addition to Trump, the field includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, 
former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former 
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy. Other candidates 
expected to get into the contest soon include former Vice President Mike Pence, 
ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

   The debate stage can provide the largest audience yet for many presidential 
hopefuls, but it also can trip up candidates. Already, there have been 
questions about which candidates will take part and what rules the RNC would 
impose in order to participate.

   Trump has said so far that he wouldn't promise to support the nominee if 
someone else wins the nomination, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt, "It would 
have to depend on who the nominee was."

   Christie, who plans to launch his campaign in New Hampshire next week, has 
said he would never support Trump as the party's 2024 nominee, as he did in 
2016. "No way," he told Axios in March. Advisers did not immediately respond to 
questions about how Christie would handle the pledge, given his opposition to 

   Hutchinson, also a Trump critic, said Friday he plans to be on the debate 
stage. But he criticized the RNC for requiring the "loyalty oath," saying the 
pledge should be only that a participant won't run as a third-party candidate.

   "The RNC should have minimal criteria for the debates in the early stages of 
this campaign," Hutchinson said. "More choices are better."

   To participate in the Aug. 23 debate in Milwaukee, candidates must have 
received campaign contributions from 40,000 unique donors -- a relatively high 
number aimed at winnowing the field. Hutchinson was critical, saying it 
"benefits candidates who generate online donations through extreme rhetoric and 
scare tactics."

   Among other debate criteria, participants also must receive at least 1% 
support in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and 1% in early 
state polls from two separate states. Those states are Iowa, New Hampshire, 
Nevada and South Carolina. The polls must meet certain requirements to be 
recognized by the RNC.

   Candidates also must sign a pledge agreeing not to participate in any 
non-RNC-sanctioned debate during the election cycle.

   The RNC said criteria for future debates may include higher thresholds for 
polling and fundraising. Future dates have not been set.

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