McDaniel emphasized that the RNC would not be withdrawing from debates altogether, but only those hosted by the commission. It is unclear what alternative method will be pursued by the RNC, though the statement noted it will explore “other avenues for candidates to have a free and fair forum for all Americans.” The commission has hosted presidential debates for over three decades.
In January of this year, McDaniel sent a letter to the commission threatening a boycott.
The RNC’s discontent with presidential elections goes back several years, though it reached a boiling point in 2020 when the commission and then-President Donald Trump repeatedly clashed. Several of McDaniel’s stated reasons for abandoning the commission appear to stem from the 2020 election.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many states implemented widespread early voting and mail-in voting, which led to a significant portion of the electorate casting ballots prior to the first presidential debate. One of the debate moderators, then-C-SPAN host Steve Scully, was criticized as being biased by the Trump campaign, the RNC and right-wing media because he had interned for then-Sen Joe Biden while in college. The debate was never held after Trump tested positive for Covid-19 and refused a virtual debate format.