Fox News to Host First Republican Presidential Primary Debate
Fox News will host the first official debate of the 2024 Republican presidential primary in Milwaukee in August, the Republican National Committee’s chairwoman announced on Wednesday.
“We are going to host the very first debate with Fox News. It will be a Fox News Republican primary debate,” Ronna McDaniel said on the network’s flagship morning program, “Fox and Friends,” adding that all participants will be asked to agree to a party loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee.
Donald J. Trump, the former president and current polling front-runner for the nomination in 2024, has refused to say whether he would support a nominee other than himself. In a February radio appearance, he said his support “would have to depend on who the nominee was.”
Ms. McDaniel explained the reason for the pledge: “Let me ask you this, as R.N.C. chair, and we’re hosting R.N.C. debates with Fox, if I said I wouldn’t support the nominee of our party I’d be kicked out,” she said. “So why would we host a debate stage without every candidate saying I’m going to support whoever the voters choose, and the voters want that.”
“It’s about beating Joe Biden,” she added.
Ms. McDaniel did not say how the party would determine who qualifies for the debate stage. In 2020, the Democratic National Committee required candidates to report a minimum number of small donors or meet a certain polling level.
Who’s Running for President in 2024?
The race begins. Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and is likely to be headlined by the same two men who ran last time: President Biden and Donald Trump. Here’s who has entered the race so far, and who else might run:
Donald Trump. The former president is running to retake the office he lost in 2020. Though somewhat diminished in influence within the Republican Party — and facing several legal investigations — he retains a large and committed base of supporters, and he could be aided in the primary by multiple challengers splitting a limited anti-Trump vote.
Nikki Haley. The former governor of South Carolina and U.N. ambassador under Trump has presented herself as a member of “a new generation of leadership” and emphasized her life experience as a daughter of Indian immigrants. She was long seen as a rising G.O.P. star but her allure in the party has declined amid her on-again, off-again embrace of Trump.
Vivek Ramaswamy. The multimillionaire entrepreneur and author describes himself as “anti-woke” and is known in right-wing circles for opposing corporate efforts to advance political, social and environmental causes. He has never held elected office and does not have the name recognition of most other G.O.P. contenders.
Asa Hutchinson. The former governor of Arkansas is one of a relatively small number of Republicans who have been openly critical of Trump. Hutchinson has denounced the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and said Trump should drop out of the presidential race.
President Biden. While Biden has not formally declared his candidacy for a second term, he is widely expected to run. But there has been much hand-wringing among Democrats over whether he should seek re-election given his age. If he does run, Biden’s strategy is to frame the race as a contest between a seasoned leader and a conspiracy-minded opposition.
Marianne Williamson. The self-help author and former spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey is running for a second time. In her 2020 campaign, the Democrat called for a federal Department of Peace, supported reparations for slavery and called Trumpism a symptom of an illness in the American psyche that could not be cured with political policies.
Others who might run. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire are seen as weighing Republican bids for the White House. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime vaccine skeptic, filed paperwork to run as a Democrat.
“We’ll put that criteria out soon,” Ms. McDaniel said — but she did not expect to need more than one debate to accommodate a large field, as the party did initially in 2016 and Democrats did in 2020.
“Right now I don’t see there being two stages but I could be wrong on that. The field’s forming later than usual,” she explained.
Both the Republican convention and first debate will be in Milwaukee, signaling Wisconsin’s significance in the party’s path back to the White House. On Tuesday, Democrats announced their national convention would be in Chicago.
Hosting a debate can be a boon for a television network. In 2015, the first primary debate of the 2016 campaign, hosted by Fox News, drew an audience of 24 million, the largest for a non-sports event at that point in cable history. Mr. Trump played a starring role.
His relationship with Fox soured in the wake of his 2020 defeat, but there are signs that the two sides are trying to set a new tone. Mr. Trump has given two major interviews to the network recently.
On Tuesday, Tucker Carlson, the network’s prominent prime time host, interviewed Mr. Trump and gushed that the former president’s message was “moderate, sensible and wise.”
Mr. Carlson’s far more caustic private opinions of Mr. Trump spilled into public view recently amid the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems, which is accusing the network of broadcasting false information about the company.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” Mr. Carlson wrote in a Jan. 4, 2021 text message. “I hate him passionately.” The network has said that the communications of its anchors have been taken out of context.
The trial is set to begin on Monday.
In addition to Mr. Trump, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a former United Nations ambassador, Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas, Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and author, and Perry Johnson, a businessman and failed candidate for governor of Michigan, have entered the Republican primary race. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina announced an exploratory committee on Wednesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is widely expected to announce a run in the coming months, as is Mike Pence, the former vice president.
Ms. McDaniel announced two other debate partners: Young America’s Foundation, which is led by Scott Walker, the former Wisconsin governor, and Rumble, a right-wing online streaming service.
“We’re getting away from Big Tech,” she said.