August 11, 2023
Former President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, August 9, that he was unwilling to meet one of the requirements set by the RNC to participate in the first Republican presidential debate—refusing to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee, according to a report by The New York Times.
“I wouldn’t sign the pledge,” he said in an interview with the news outlet, Newsmax. “Why would I sign a pledge? There are people on there that I wouldn’t have.”
The decision would seem to rule out the possibility of his participation in the debate on Wednesday, August 23, yet he also said that he would announce next week whether he planned to take part.
Asked for comment on Thursday, the Republican National Committee, which sets the rules, referred to past interviews in which its chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, has defended the pledge and said the committee will hold everyone to it.
“The rules aren’t changing,” she said on CNN last month. “We’ve been very vocal with them.”
Trump also said in the Newsmax interview that he wasn’t convinced it was worth it for him to debate given how far ahead he is in the primary. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed him leading the field by an enormous margin—more than 35 percentage points ahead of his nearest competitor, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.
“Why would you do that when you’re leading by so much?” he asked.
Some other Republicans criticized Trump on Thursday, August 10, for his refusal to commit to supporting a nominee other than himself. “Every Republican running for President would be better than Joe Biden,” Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia said on Twitter. “Any candidate who does not commit to supporting the eventual nominee is putting themselves ahead of the future of our country.”
According to the Times, Trump’s vacillation over the pledge is not new; he objected to signing the same loyalty pledge during his first campaign eight years ago. He ultimately did, but then took it back.
That history underscores that the pledge is, in practice, unenforceable. Party leaders can refuse to let a candidate debate for not signing, but they can’t force someone who does sign to actually support another nominee next year.
Research contact: @nytimes