After hosting four events in which their front-runner, former President Donald Trump, refused to participate, the Republican National Committee on Friday threw in the towel and announced it wouldn’t host any more 2024 primary debates.
The decision doesn’t preclude other organizations, like news networks, from hosting their own independent debates ― but they won’t have the Republican Party’s blessing.
“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 to Politico.
“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,” the committee said.
In this file photo, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at a fundraiser with former President Donald Trump.
ABC and CNN separately plan to host a total of three Republican presidential primary debates in Iowa and New Hampshire next month.
This week’s fourth and apparently final RNC debate was marked by a pronounced decline in viewers. Just 3.2 million people tuned in to the discussion hosted by NewsNation, compared to 9.1 million for the NBC-hosted debate a month prior.
Trump has actively sought to undercut the events, at times even participating in counterprogramming to reduce their impact. Instead of attending this week’s debate, for instance, Trump participated in a friendly town hall hosted by his longtime ally Sean Hannity.
Trump’s actions have reportedly drawn the ire of Republican officials. One Republican operative told CNN the committee sees it as “an intentional slap in the face” ― especially after the RNC has spent millions on Trump’s mounting legal bills.