By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Former President Donald Trump said late Wednesday he will not sign the loyalty pledge that the Republican National Committee (RNC) requires for presidential candidates to participate in the GOP primary debate.
The loyalty pledge requires the various candidates to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee in 2024.
Mr. Trump explained his hesitation in an interview with Newsmax. “I wouldn’t sign the pledge,” he said. “Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn’t have?”
“I wouldn’t have certain people as somebody that I would endorse,” he also said, adding: “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”
But he didn’t reveal specifically which candidates he wouldn’t endorse.
The former president has previously hinted multiple times he might skip the debate altogether because of his significant lead in the primary polls and reluctance to let other candidates have an opportunity to attack him.
As an example, he noted that candidates such as former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would “ask me nasty questions” at the debate. The two candidates have been highly critical of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump also commented on Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, saying they were both “very nice,” “very capable,” and “very good people.”
“But why would you do that when you’re leading by so much?” Mr. Trump said, referring to his entering the debate.
The comments are the strongest suggestions yet that he may not attend the debate. He said he hasn’t “totally ruled it out,” and will announce his decision next week as to whether he will join.
The 2023 primary debate is scheduled for Aug. 23, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It will be broadcast by Fox News.
In the primary debate in 2015, Mr. Trump was the only candidate who didn’t initially sign the loyalty pledge, but he eventually did.
A refusal to sign the loyalty pledge would make Mr. Trump ineligible to join the next debate, as per the RNC’s requirements.
Besides committing to support the eventual Republican nominee, candidates who sign the loyalty pledge also commit to not participate in any non-RNC sanctioned debate for the rest of the election cycle.
Mr. Trump is the Republican 2024 presidential frontrunner by a wide margin. He is among eight candidates who appear to have met the polling thresholds required to participate in the debates.
The others are: Mr. Christie, Mr. Scott, Mr. Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
Qualified candidates must present their loyalty pledge no later than 48 hours before the first debate to be able to attend.