Trump refusal to sign loyalty pledge puts RNC in bind
BY JULIA MANCHESTER – 08/16/23 6:00 AM ET
Former President Trump’s refusal to sign the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) loyalty pledge is putting the organization in a bind as next week’s GOP primary debate approaches.
Trump said he wouldn’t sign the pledge last week and is expected to announce in the coming days whether he will attend the event.
RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel must now navigate the thorny situation of appeasing Trump — both a ratings draw and the clear front-runner in the primary — while maintaining her control as head of the party.
“It’s a distinct possibility that the Republican nominee for president could simply decide to shun the RNC itself,” said Brian Seitchik, a Republican strategist and Trump campaign alum. “When a candidate refuses to play by the rules, it obviously weakens the RNC’s position.”
However, McDaniel has given no indication that the RNC will make any exceptions for the former president.
“It’s the Beat Biden Pledge,” McDaniel told CNN’s Chris Wallace in an interview last month. “And what we’re saying — and the debate committee has met for over two years people from Alaska to Illinois to Tennessee — is if you’re going to stand on the Republican National Committee debate stage you should be able to support the nominee and beat Biden.”
“Everybody has to sign the Beat Biden Pledge. Everybody,” she added, when asked by Wallace if that applied to Trump as well. “It’s across the board. The rules aren’t changing. We’ve been very vocal with them.”
The pledge states that the candidate will support the eventual nominee of the party’s primary and that the candidate will not participate in any debate the RNC has not sanctioned. The pledge is a part of the criteria Republican candidates must meet to qualify for the first presidential primary debate set for Aug. 23.
This isn’t the first time Trump has gone against the RNC’s push for primary candidates to rally around the eventual nominee in the name of party unity. In August 2015, then-candidate Trump was the only candidate on stage at one of the debates to not raise his hand to show that he would support the eventual nominee in the 2016 primary. At the time, there were 17 Republicans competing for the nomination.
Trump ended up signing a loyalty pledge in September 2015, but by March 2016 said that he was no longer sticking with the pledge. By then, he was one of only three candidates running in the primary.
“The only reason that there was a need to do a loyalty pledge was because of Donald Trump,” said Alex Stroman, a Republican strategist and RNC alum. “I thought it was unnecessary in 2016.”