College Official Says They Were “Surprised” CNN Named Its New Hampshire Venue As Site Of GOP Debate — Update

UPDATE: An official with Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire said that they were surprised to be named as the venue for CNN’s planned pre-primary debate on Jan. 21.

Neal Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library at the college, wrote on X/Twitter on Friday that they were in the dark on the network’s plans, even though New Anselm was named as the locale of the event in CNN’s announcement this week. He said that the CNN debate was one “we had not planned or booked.”

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He added, “Such a debate announcement breached the RNC debate rules. We have and will continue to work with the Republican Party on debates.”

Hours after CNN announced plans for a pre-Iowa and pre-New Hampshire debate, ABC News, WMUR-TV and Saint Anselm said that they had scheduled a debate three nights earlier, on Jan. 18.

The CNN event does not have the endorsement of the Republican party, but the network cited the expected announcement this week that the GOP would release candidates from their obligation to only participate in Republican National Committee-sanctioned events. The ABC debate will be “subject to RNC guidelines,” according to the chairman of the New Hampshire GOP committee, Chris Ager.

A CNN spokesperson said, “We can’t speak to any miscommunication within Saint Anselm, but we are moving forward with our plans to host a debate in New Hampshire on January 21.”

PREVIOUSLY: ABC News says it will host a pre-New Hampshire GOP primary debate on Jan. 18, three nights before CNN’s planned event.

The scheduling of two debates so close together is unusual, but it underscores the jockeying among the networks to host at least one of the Republican gatherings this cycle.

ABC News said that it was partnering with WMUR-TV and the New Hampshire Republican State Committee for the event. Chris Ager, the chairman of the GOP committee, said in a statement that the debate will be “subject to RNC guidelines.”

CNN has its own set of criteria for its debate. The network also said that the RNC is expected to announce this week that candidates will be released from the requirement that they do not participate in debates not sanctioned by the party.

Both the ABC News and CNN said that their debates are scheduled to take place at Saint Anselm College.

In the ABC News announcement, representatives from WMUR and Saint Anselm College stressed the long tradition of partnership between the three entities for a pre-New Hampshire primary debate.

PREVIOUSLY: CNN said that it will host two Republican primary debates next month before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries.

The network has been shut out of the first four Republican debates, which have been sanctioned by the Republican National Committee.

The network is hosting the debate on its own. CNN said that the RNC is expected to announce this week that candidates will be released from the requirement that they do not participate in debates not sanctioned by the party.

The first debate will take place on Jan. 10 at Drake University in Des Moines, and the second will be on Jan. 21 at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, NH. The Iowa caucuses are on Jan. 15 and the New Hampshire primary is Jan. 23.

To qualify for the Iowa debate, candidates must receive at least 10% in three separate national and/or Iowa polls of Republican caucusgoers that meet the network’s standards for reporting, CNN said. One of the three polls must be a CNN approved poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers. Similar criteria applies to the New Hampshire primary, with the requirement that the polls be of that state’s likely Republican primary voters. The top three finishers in the Iowa caucuses will be invited to the New Hampshire debate.

NewsNation hosted the fourth GOP primary debate on Wednesday night. NBC News hosted the third debate, and Fox News and Fox Business hosted the first and second debates.

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