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Bossie: RNC may skip televised presidential debates in 2024 if no major format changes

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The head of a DC-based conservative PAC and former adviser to President Donald Trump says that the Republican National Committee may opt-out of televised presidential debates during the 2024 election cycle if major format changes are not made in advance.

David Bossie, the long-serving president of Citizens United who served as deputy campaign manager for the 2016 Trump campaign, noted in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Friday that Republican candidates have long believed that most TV network moderators are liberals who are not fair to them and instead are more accommodating to Democratic candidates. That belief was bolstered by examples like one involving Donna Brazile, the former Democratic National Committee chair-turned CNN contributor, who admitted providing debate questions in advance to then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of debate with Trump.

“We don’t need to count on just the networks,” Bossie said, according to Politico. “There are so many opportunities out there, so many platforms out there that we can go to and partner with to get the message out.”

Bossie said some moderators used the national stage to try and highlight themselves, usually at the Republican candidates’ expense, rather than focusing on making debates more interesting and productive.

“They’re asking questions really not to impact primary Republican voters, but to have ‘gotcha’ questions and answers for the general election debate, because they all want to see their question and answer played during the general election,” said Bossie, in reference mostly to primary debates in which networks partner with major parties.

“We have to not allow bad actors to infiltrate our debate process,” Bossie continued.

The Citizens United chief is the second Republican official to hint the party may skip broadcast and cable news network debates if format changes aren’t made.

Earlier this month, Ronna McDaniel, chair of the RNC, sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the panel that oversees them, and warned that GOP candidates and the party’s eventual nominee in 2024 may skip them without significant changes.

“The CPD’s repeated missteps and the partisan actions of its Board Members make clear that the organization no longer provides the fair and impartial forum for presidential debates which the law requires and the American people deserve,” the letter said.

“Our sincere hope is that the CPD accepts this criticism and works to correct its mistakes,” added the party boss. “If not, the RNC will have no choice but to advise future Republican candidates against participating in CPD-hosted debates, and the RNC will look for other options for its candidates to debate the issues before the American people in a neutral and nonpartisan forum.”

The commission, which has been scheduling and managing presidential and vice-presidential debates since 1988, is billed as “non-partisan” but Republicans have, for years, mocked that.

The first 2020 debate between Trump and then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden was widely viewed as a disaster. Moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, Trump frequently complained during the event that Wallace was debating him more than Biden was.

“I guess I’m debating you, not him. But that’s OK. I’m not surprised,” the former president said at one point.

The second debate was to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Trump backed out of it and both candidates instead held townhall-style rallies. But GOP critics blasted the commission’s moderator choice, C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who once worked for Biden.

“It should be obvious, for instance, that no person should serve as a moderator who previously worked for one of the candidates,” McDaniel wrote in her letter.

Jon Dougherty

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