‘Straight-Up Embarrassing’: GOP Campaign Hits RNC Over Debate Standards, Wants To Shrink The Stage

(Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Reagan Reese White House Correspondent
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A contending GOP presidential campaign is throwing the challenge flag against the Republican National Committee (RNC) over allegedly lackluster debate qualification criteria.

The 2024 Republican presidential campaign claimed to the Daily Caller that the qualification system to make the debate stage is seriously flawed, citing North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum as an example of a candidate who qualified for the RNC’s last debate despite lackluster polling. The rival campaign pointed to the fact that Burgum had not nationally polled above 1% leading up to the second presidential primary debate, but qualified just ahead of the deadline with one outlier national poll of 3%, before quickly falling back to zero or one percent.

“It’ll be straight-up embarrassing if the RNC lets him pull that crap again. If the party wants these debates to be taken seriously, the stage needs to be limited to serious candidates,” the rival campaign told the Daily Caller. “The RNC would be wasting everyone’s time to put candidates with no chance of winning up on stage to get grilled by liberal journalists from NBC. He should go the way of Mike Pence or else he’s on track to become a laughingstock. People will be too annoyed not to notice and comment on it if he does it again.”

The campaign was granted anonymity to speak freely about the topic.

To qualify for the second debate, presidential candidates needed to hit at least 3% in two national polls, or 3% in one national poll and 3% in two early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, according to an RNC press release. Polls accepted for qualification by the RNC had a variety of standards including that they must have had a survey sample of at least 800 registered “likely Republican voters.”

The stage is pictured before the FOX News Republican Presidential Debate 2023 at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight presidential hopefuls, including former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum are set to squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The stage is pictured before the FOX News Republican Presidential Debate 2023 at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In addition to the polling, candidates also needed a minimum of 50,000 unique donors to their presidential campaign committee with at least 200 unique donors from more than 20 states or territories, the RNC press release states. Candidates needed to submit all evidence of qualification to the RNC more than 48 hours ahead of the date of the second debate in order to make the stage.

Ahead of the second debate on Sept. 27, Burgum first appeared to qualify on Sept. 23., according to a Politico analysis. Burgum met the polling requirement on Sept. 23 with a Trafalgar Group poll that had the governor at 3% nationally. The governor had already met the other polling standards after hitting 4% in a New Hampshire survey from InsiderAdvantage during September and 3% in a Trafalgar survey in Iowa from August, Politico reported.

Ahead of the Trafalgar poll, Burgum had not polled above 1% nationally, according to Real Clear Politics. Following the debate, Burgum has not polled above 1% nationally, Real Clear Politics shows. The Trafalgar group released an Iowa poll Monday which had Burgum at 4.1%.

“Sounds like these anonymous sources are living in crazy town,” Lance Trover, a spokesman for Burgum’s campaign, said in a statement to the Daily Caller. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Offensive To Voters’: Doug Burgum Rips RNC, Corporate Media For Handling Of Debates)

An RNC spokesperson noted to the Daily Caller that the debate standards for qualification throughout the 2024 election are the toughest they have been. The spokesperson added that the qualifications have gotten harder since the first debate and as a result, have shrunk the debate stage.

During the 2016 election cycle, the first GOP presidential debate in August 2015 was split into two separate events. The top ten-polling candidates competed in a prime-time debate while the rest of the candidates participated in an earlier debate.

Burgum has not qualified for the third presidential debate, which is set to take place Wednesday, at the time of this publication. The requirements for the third debate, which is hosted by NBC News and moderated by Lester Holt, Kristen Welker and Hugh Hewitt, are tougher than the second.

Candidates are required to hit at least 4% in two national polls or 4% in one national poll and 4% in two early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in order to make the third debate, according to an RNC press release. The presidential candidates must also have a minimum of 70,000 unique donors to the candidate’s principal presidential campaign committee with at least 200 of those donors being from 20 different states or territories.