Former President Donald Trump has demanded that his party, the Republican National Committee (RNC), stop hosting debates for his presidential rivals or be “revamped.” Despite not attending any of the previous three debates and having no plans to attend the fourth one next month, Trump and his campaign have become increasingly vocal about ending the debates altogether as the primaries and caucuses draw nearer and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gains popularity in the polls.
In a social media post, Trump called on the RNC to save money by ending the debates and using those resources against the Democrats. However, it is unclear why Trump believes hosting the debates costs the RNC money when it is the media partners who bear the expenses. Additionally, it is unclear how exactly the RNC should be restructured or what the mechanism for that would be. Trump’s staff did not respond to queries about his demands.
RNC members have expressed their belief that Trump does not understand how the debates work. Longtime Massachusetts member Ron Kaufman stated that the debates actually serve as fundraisers for the RNC, as attendees are often asked to make donations. Illinois member Richard Porter questioned Trump’s claim that the debates drain the RNC’s resources and speculated that they may worry him for another reason.
In his social media post, Trump also cited a new national poll showing him with a significant lead over his rivals. However, while Trump may be polling well nationally, he remains under 50% in states that vote first in the primaries. Political consultants from both parties agree that losses in those states would undermine Trump’s incumbent status and potentially open the door for a challenger to win. Furthermore, Trump is facing multiple criminal trials, with his first trial for his actions leading up to the January 6, 2021, coup attempt set to start in early March. He faces a total of 91 felony counts across four separate indictments.
Despite these challenges, Trump still retains the loyalty of much of the Republican Party and remains the frontrunner for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.