MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle said that Republican National Committee calls for reform around presidential debates seemed “reasonable” as the RNC signals it will disallow candidates from participating in future ones.
In a letter from the RNC to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) that Fox News obtained on Thursday, the committee said it will require its presidential candidates running in the 2024 election cycle to pledge not to participate in debates run by the CPD. RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel’s letter accused the debate committee of not heeding the GOP’s “good faith” calls for change ahead of 2024.
“They want the debates to happen before early voting starts, term limits for the commission’s board, and a ban on any partisan political activity for the people in the commission,” Ruhle said. “I am a mere mortal. I have never been involved in debates about debates, but when I read those three, I kind of think, I don’t know, they sound reasonable.”
Asked if any of those changes were possible, MSNBC analyst and Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker also said some proposed reforms seemed “quite reasonable to people.”
“The big issue here is that traditionally the commission does not negotiate with the parties. They negotiate with the candidates,” she said. “Another interesting open question is if you read the tea leaves a little bit … They want all the Republican candidates to pledge to no more debates. You can see a world in which, if the candidate is not Donald Trump … a Republican candidate who thinks they really could do well against Biden, think debates are strength, wanting that debate. So it’s not totally monolithic even within the party necessarily.”
Ruhle wasn’t positive on the possibility of Republicans skipping debates, however, saying it could be “dangerous” to have information put out by one side go unchallenged. Analyst Matthew Dowd, a former George W. Bush strategist and now a Democrat, said it was imperative to have debates to give the public a clear distinction between the two candidates.
According to McDaniel’s letter, the RNC is also pushing to “establish transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators that would disqualify individuals from consideration who have apparent conflicts of interest due to personal, professional, or partisan factors,” and “enact a transparent code of conduct for moderators in conducting debates, including guidelines for appropriate interactions with the participating nominees.”
The RNC’s letter, which was first reported by the New York Times, was fueled by longstanding complaints from then-President Donald Trump and GOP officials over how the 2020 presidential debates were conducted. The letter was sent after months of talks between the RNC and the commission.
Responding to the letter, the commission told Fox News that “the CPD deals directly with candidates for president and vice president who qualify for participation in the CPD’s general election debates. The CPD’s plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues.”
The move by the RNC requiring Republican presidential candidates to refuse to take part in CPD debates is expected to be voted on by committee members when the RNC holds its winter meeting early next month in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Democratic National Committee mocked Republicans over the threatened withdrawal from debates, saying they can’t win a “fair fight.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser, Mark Meredith, and Patrick Ward contributed to this report.