The RNC Has Completely Botched the Republican Presidential Primary Debate Process

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

If you've followed my posts for any real length of time, you know I'm not much of a fan of McDaniel. I supported and promoted her challenger, Harmeet Dhillon, in January. Unfortunately, the incumbent chairwoman won a fourth term despite previously promising to not run again

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Her most recent re-election was bolstered by a shadow campaign to whip votes run by Donald Trump's top advisor, Susie Wiles. The former president hand-selected McDaniel in 2017 and endorsed her in the prior two RNC elections. To put it lightly, I wasn't happy with the result, so if you want to hear me burn the place down, rhetorically speaking, be sure to read the piece I wrote in the immediate aftermath, aptly named "The Republican Party Hates You."

So what's the problem this time? As I write this, we are now two days away from the first GOP primary debate, and no one has any idea who has qualified. That's not just because people are still grinding to meet the requirements. Rather, it's because the requirements, though somewhat defined, are ambiguous enough that candidates are claiming they've met them when they might not have. 

Then, there are some candidates announcing they've qualified when the RNC itself hasn't put out any official list.

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To be fair, the candidates had until Monday evening to submit evidence of their qualification to the RNC, but since these candidates were announcing days ago that they qualified, some kind of confirmation from the RNC would be helpful.

Per the RNC's stated rules, a candidate is supposed to have 40,000 individual donors and register at one percent or higher in at least three national polls or two national polls and one state poll. That sounds simple enough, but there is obviously confusion among the candidates. 

As mentioned above, bottom-tier candidates like Perry Johnson, Asa Hutchinson, and Francis Suarez are claiming they've hit the threshold with just days left to go. But did they? That donor data appears to be self-reported, so it's tough to say if things are being fudged or not. 

The polling requirement is more problematic, though. Looking at just the first sub-requirement under polling, the phrase "mix of" is used before describing four different techniques. Yet, at the end of the sentence, it says "and/or." So can a poll that just uses an online panel qualify despite those types of surveys typically being less reliable or must it be a "mix of" the different polling methods? The answer isn't clear. 

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Other phrases like "not overly weight" are very ambiguous, and while the requirements clearly state the poll can't be paid for by a candidate or candidate's committee (i.e. a Super PAC), or conducted by a firm affiliated with a candidate or candidate committee, proving that one way or the other ranges from difficult to impossible - and that's an issue. If the honor system is in effect, you can expect it to be abused.

None of this would have been an issue if the RNC had just pre-selected a list of polls that qualify and publicized it. That would be transparent and would also prevent candidates from possibly falsely announcing they've made the debate.

Trump has since confirmed that he will not be attending. That's his prerogative (because the RNC, incredibly, doesn't have basic rules on something like requiring candidates seeking the nomination and qualifying for the debate to attend), but even on the issue of Trump not attending, the RNC has managed to completely fumble the ball. 

If a candidate doesn't want to show up for a debate, they have the right. The expectation would then be that said candidate would not be represented on pre and post-debate panels in the spin room. Instead, it's being reported that Trump surrogates Kari Lake, Rep. Byron Donalds, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, who are attending the debate, are angling to be in the spin room to represent him. It's also been reported that McDaniel personally invited Rep. Byron Donalds to stand in for Trump in the spin room, and that she's also got Donald Trump Jr. attending. 

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Even if one believes Trump is the greatest candidate to ever walk the earth and should be handed the nomination on a silver platter, that's just a bad way to run things. If a candidate doesn't bother to show up, then they should be treated as if they didn't show up. Instead, the RNC appears to be doing its best to accommodate the frontrunner outside the bounds of what most would consider fair.

With that lack of leadership on display, it's no wonder that some GOP committee members are expressing their discontent. 

That's obviously not going to happen given McDaniel's leanings toward Trump, but why wasn't such a rule put in place a year ago when there could have been no argument about it? Instead, we are two days away from the first debate and we still have candidates self-announcing they've met the requirements, with no one knowing if it's actually true or not. 

If I sound worked up, it's because I am. I'm sick and tired of supporting a party that is so nakedly inept and corrupt. But hey, at least we won't run short of "5x matching" scam emails from the RNC anytime soon.

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