Republican National Committee officially allows candidates to participate in unsanctioned debates

The Republican National Committee said Friday that it has no party-sponsored presidential debates scheduled for January and that GOP candidates are free to participate in any forum or debate of their choosing.

“We have held four successful debates across the country with the most conservative partners in the history of a Republican primary. We have no RNC debates scheduled in January and any debates currently scheduled are not affiliated with the RNC,” the RNC’s Committee on Presidential Debates said in a statement. “It is now time for Republican primary voters to decide who will be our next President and candidates are free to use any forum or format to communicate to voters as they see fit.”

CNN announced Thursday it will host two Republican presidential primary debates next month in Iowa and New Hampshire – the states that hold the first contests in the race for the 2024 GOP nomination. ABC News and WMUR-TV will also hold a Republican presidential primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, days after the Iowa caucuses.

CNN’s first debate will take place on January 10 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, less than a week before Iowa caucusgoers weigh in on the Republican presidential race. The second debate will be January 21 at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire.

The RNC’s decision comes after the party came under criticism from several GOP candidates who argued the committee’s exclusivity pledge prevented meaningful confrontations at a variety of different forums. Separately, former President Donald Trump and his campaign had pressured the RNC to cancel future debates. Trump has not participated in any GOP presidential debates this year.

Politico first reported the change in the RNC’s position.

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