Two candidates suing GOP for being left out of debate: ‘They’re cherrypicking’

Former president and his associates have framed the debate as an audition to be his running mate

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 23 August 2023 15:36 BST
Related video: Michigan GOP presidential candidate Perry Johnson not invited to FOX News debate

Two Republican presidential candidates are suing the Republican National Committee for not allowing them to take part in the first primary debate in Milwaukee.

California conservative radio host Larry Elder and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson reportedly didn’t meet the qualifications set by the RNC, which the candidates dispute. The requirements included donations from 40,000 individuals with at least 200 in 20 or more states, reaching at least one per cent in two national polls and one poll from one of the states that vote early, and agreeing to the pledge of loyalty to support the eventual nominee.

Mr Elder, who has previously run for governor of California, claimed the RNC had “rigged” the process and that he had indeed qualified, but that the RNC didn’t accept some of the polls he cited.

Mr Johnson ran for governor of Michigan in 2022. He also claimed that he has met the requirements, saying that the RNC “knew who they wanted to ban” and that they made “a flawed decision”.

But he didn’t outline why the RNC rejected his argument that he had qualified for the debate stage in his statement.

While both Mr Elder and Mr Johnson are planning on suing the RNC, it remains unclear when they will do so and what their argument in court will be.

Keith Schipper, a spokesperson for the RNC, said in a statement that “criteria for the first debate was clearly presented to campaigns and RNC leadership,” according to Forbes.

He added that “members of the debate committee were in constant communication with candidates and campaigns throughout the qualifying period”.

On Monday, the RNC said that eight candidates had qualified for the debate in Milwaukee tonight at 9pm ET.

Those set to be on stage include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Former Texas Congressman and CIA agent Will Hurd also hasn’t qualified, arguing that the polls are being cherry-picked. He told Politico, “I’m tied with [Ambassador] Nikki [Haley] … and Vice President [Mike] Pence in New Hampshire. I’m close to hitting the 50,000 threshold, but they cherry-pick because they don’t want me on the stage”.

Former President Donald Trump said late on Sunday night that he wasn’t attending the debate. Instead, a prerecorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson will be broadcast, but it remains unclear if it will be shown at the same time as the debate.

The former president and his associates have framed the debate as an audition to be his running mate, with his Super PAC Make America Great Again publishing a website, asking people to vote on who they think will win the “2024 vice presidential debate,” Forbes noted.

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