Four Republican backbencher candidates who failed to qualify for the first 2024 GOP presidential debate this week slammed the Republican National Committee over its rules, with multiple contenders calling them “rigged.”
“This is B.S.,” conservative radio host Larry Elder complained in a video he shared online. “It is designed, in my opinion, to ensure that [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis is the nominee — anybody other than Donald Trump.”
Elder, who mounted an unsuccessful bid to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom, said he intended to file an emergency lawsuit to halt the debate from taking place. Businessman Perry Johnson, another GOP candidate, also said he intends to take legal action against the RNC.
The prime-time debate is scheduled for Wednesday in Milwaukee and will be aired by Fox News.
Radio host Larry Elder is among the candidates who failed to qualify for the first 2024 Republican presidential debate.
The RNC announced in June that in order to qualify for the debate, each candidate had to hit at least 40,000 unique donors and register at least 1% in three national polls, or 1% in two national polls and 1% in one early state poll.
Few candidates had trouble reaching the donor threshold. Some of them even used creative and eyebrow-raising schemes to hit the mark. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, for example, offered $20 gift cards to those who donated at least $1 to his campaign, a luxury available to a wealthy self-funding candidate.
But the polling mark proved to be a more difficult task for candidates with little name recognition in a race dominated by Trump. Elder complained the RNC wasn’t counting polls from Rasmussen, a Trump-friendly polling firm, while former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas protested the committee’s decision not to include polls that surveyed independents and Democrats willing to vote for a Republican.
“The lack of transparency and confusion around the RNC’s debate requirements is antithetical to the democratic process. The American people deserve better,” Hurd said in a statement Tuesday.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez similarly failed to make the cut. Suarez had previously said candidates who don’t make the debate stage should drop out of the race ― including himself.
“I’m running against [people] who have been national figures for years. I’ve been a national figure for 60 days,” Suarez said earlier this month. “So, fortunately for me, you’re sort of new so you have a different threshold, a different time frame and we’re going to have to compete at the same level.”
The cost of not making the debate for backbencher candidates is extremely high. They already struggle to get attention, and now they have zero chance of getting a breakout moment on stage.
While Trump is skipping the debate ― and has said he’ll also sit out all future GOP debates ― eight of his Republican rivals will be vying for runner-up at the event in Milwaukee.
They include: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.