The Republican Party is planning to hold its first US presidential primary debate on August 23, organizers said Friday, announcing that candidates will be made to sign a pledge agreeing to support the eventual nominee.
Former president Donald Trump, the runaway frontrunner in the early stages of the contest, has so far declined to commit to backing the eventual winner, saying in a radio interview in February that it would “depend on who the nominee was.”
US media reported last month that Trump was reluctant in any case to share the limelight with lower-polling rivals and had discussed skipping one or both of the first two debates.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) said it will also require anyone hoping to make the debate stage to have garnered one percent of the vote in three approved polls and have 40,000 unique donors.
“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,” chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
Fox News will host the first showdown in Milwaukee while a second will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
CNN reported in May that Trump had told allies he wanted to give the Reagan Library a wide berth, complaining that the board of trustees was headed by the chief executive officer of The Washington Post — a paper he often criticizes.
Milwaukee — population 580,000 — is the largest city in Wisconsin, a swing state that Democrat Joe Biden won by just 20,000 votes in 2020. It is also set to host the 2024 Republican National Convention, where the party names its presidential election candidate.
The Republican field is made up of seven major candidates so far, with more set to announce next week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis trails Trump by more than 30 points in the polling averages, while no other hopeful is posting double figures.
The RNC said it would stage an overflow debate on August 24 if enough candidates meet the criteria to require splitting the field over two nights.