Trump and DeSantis must pledge to support eventual White House nominee as first debate announced

Former president remains strong favourite to win race over Florida governor, polling suggests

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 02 June 2023 17:06 EDT

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Donald Trump and leading rival Ron DeSantis must pledge to support the eventual Republican presidential nomination if they want to take part in the party’s first primary debate.

The Republican National Committee will insist on the condition for any candidate to be on stage at the event, which it announced will take place on 23 August in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The RNC is committed to putting on a fair, neutral, and transparent primary process and the qualifying criteria set forth will put our party and eventual nominee in the best position to take back the White House come November 2024,” said RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Friday.

All candidates must meet all RNC criteria listed in four groups: candidate status; polling; fundraising; and candidate pledging.

Candidates will be placed on stage according to their polling numbers, with the highest polling candidate in the centre.

In addition to the pledge to support the eventual nominee, candidates must have 40,000 unique donors with 200 per state in at least 20 states, and they must poll at least one per cent in three recognised polls.

If enough candidates qualify there will be a second debate held on 24 August.

Mr Trump is the strong favourite to win the party’s nomination, ahead of Mr DeSantis, and the rest of the field.

A National Research Inc. survey of 500 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters on 26 May put the one-term president on 43 per cent, with the Florida governor on 18 per cent.

Candidate Status

  • Be eligible to run (natural born US citizen, resident for 14+ years, 35 years or older).
  • Have declared his or her candidacy.
  • Have an active FEC Form 2 (Statement of Candidacy) filed with the FEC in which they identify as a candidate for the Republican nomination.
  • Have an active FEC Form 1 (Statement of Organization) filed with the FEC designating the candidate’s principal campaign committee.


  • Poll at least 1 per cent in three national polls OR 1 per cent in two national polls and 1 per cent in one early state poll from two separate “carve out” states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) recognized by the RNC. For a poll to be recognized, it must:
  • Survey at least 800 registered likely Republican voters through a mix of live calls, integrated voice response, online panels, and/or text messages.
  • Not overly weight responses of any individual cohort beyond the margin of the error of the poll.
  • Ask the question on presidential preference prior to any question, which may allow potential bias.
  • Not be conducted by a polling company affiliated with a candidate or candidate committee.
  • Meet this polling requirement no later than 48 hours prior to the first scheduled debate, and must be conducted on or after July 1, 2023.


  • Have a minimum of 40,000 unique donors to candidate’s principal presidential campaign committee (or exploratory committee), with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in 20+ states and/or territories.
  • Present this evidence to the RNC no later than 48 hours prior to the first scheduled debate.

Candidate Pledge

  • Have signed a pledge agreeing not to participate in any non-RNC sanctioned debate for the remainder of the election cycle.
  • Have signed a pledge agreeing to support the eventual party nominee.
  • Have signed RNC data-sharing agreement.
  • Present signed pledges and agreements to the RNC no later than 48 hours prior to the first scheduled debate.

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