Two 2024 GOP presidential longshots who claim they’ve met the Republican National Committee’s (RNC’s) debate criteria threatened “legal action” against the organization Tuesday after it excluded them from the list of candidates who will participate in the debate Wednesday.
Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, conservative radio personality Larry Elder and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson did not qualify for the first debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to the RNC’s list of eight GOP hopefuls who met its criteria.
While all but Suarez have since slammed the committee for excluding them from the debate stage, Elder and Johnson said their campaigns would take legal action against the RNC.
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“I intend to sue the RNC to halt Wednesday’s presidential debate,” Elder wrote in a tweet. “I said from the beginning that it appeared the rules of the game were rigged, little did we know just how rigged it is. For some reason, the establishment leaders at the RNC are afraid of having my voice on the debate stage. Just as I had to fight to successfully be on the ballot in the California recall election, I will fight to be on that debate stage because I fully met all of the requirements to do so.”
“The corrupt and rigged RNC debate process has been a trainwreck from the beginning,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is clear that from the beginning, the RNC knew who they wanted on the stage and who they wanted to ban from the stage. Simply put, this is a flawed decision of a poorly run process of a corrupt organization. This morning, I am working with my team to take legal action against the RNC.”
Both candidates argue they satisfied the RNC’s criteria to make the first debate stage by surpassing the 40,000 unique donor threshold and meeting the requisite polling benchmarks, according to Elder and Johnson’s respective campaigns.
The candidates must have polled either at 1% or above in three national polls, or 1% in two national polls and in two key early primary state polls. The surveys had to be recognized by the RNC by polling at least 800 likely GOP voters, being conducted on or after July 1, and not having been affiliated with any Republican primary candidate.
The RNC informed Elder that one of the polls he submitted did not qualify, as it has ties with former President Donald Trump, according to the radio host’s campaign. Johnson also argued that the RNC “wrongfully excluded qualifying polls” when assessing whether he would take the debate stage, according to a press release.
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“The RNC worked over two years to deliver a transparent and fair primary process that will put our eventual nominee in the best position to beat Biden,” RNC spokesman Keith Schipper told the DCNF in a statement. “Criteria to qualify for the first debate was clearly presented to campaigns and RNC leadership and members of the debate committee were in constant communication with candidates and campaigns throughout the qualifying period.”
The RealClearPolitics (RCP) average for a 2024 national Republican primary, based on polls conducted between Aug. 10 and Aug. 20, indicates Trump is leading by over 40 points, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 14.6%, conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy at 7.1% and former Vice President Mike Pence at 4.3%. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott received 3.3%, 3.1% and 3%, respectively, and all other GOP hopefuls garnered less than 1% support.
Hurd, who said he met the RNC’s donor and polling threshold, also took aim at the committee for not making it on its qualifying list. The former congressman has also repeatedly said he wouldn’t sign the loyalty pledge so as to avoid potentially supporting Trump as the nominee.
“The lack of transparency and confusion around the RNC’s debate requirements is antithetical to the democratic process. The polling standards are arbitrary, unclear, and lack consistency. This is an unacceptable process for a presidential election. The American people deserve better,” Hurd said in a statement. “The RNC discounted polls that included independents and Democrats willing to vote for a Republican. If the GOP is looking to grow our electorate and beat Joe Biden, then we better have a clear understanding of what qualifies as a likely Republican voter.”
Suarez’ campaign announced last Friday that it had achieved all of the RNC’s qualifications to make the debate stage, but the committee quickly confirmed with the Daily Caller News Foundation that he hadn’t officially adhered to the rules.
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A source familiar with the RNC’s debate qualification process confirmed with the DCNF that Elder, Johnson, Hurd and Suarez did not meet the committee’s polling requirements to make the debate stage. The candidates’ submitted surveys were disqualified due to sample size issues, being sponsored by an organization affiliated with a campaign and not counting as a national poll.
DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Pence, Haley, Scott, Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum will all participate in tomorrow night’s debate.
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