North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum criticized the Republican National Committee’s (RNC’s) debate criteria and the corporate media’s handling of the candidates on stage in comments to the Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday.
Burgum participated in the first two 2024 GOP primary debates in late August and September after meeting the RNC’s donor and polling thresholds, and signing the loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee. The governor criticized the RNC’s debate criteria and the moderators for trying to “narrow the field,” and said it’s up to the voters to hear from every candidate and decide for themselves.
“There’s this there’s this urgency right now, and somehow the narrative … across all media, seems to be, ‘we’ve got to get the field narrowed to actually solve a problem,’ as opposed to, ‘no, we need to find out who’s the most capable of doing the job and help Americans understand who that person is.’ So this debate criteria is nationalizing the local primaries in a way that’s premature, and I think offensive to the voters,” Burgum told the DCNF. “There was a time when presidential debates actually held a tremendous amount of gravitas, because they were presidential debates — that was what they were. And now, it was kind of political theater, and now it’s become reality TV, and reality TV works best when there’s conflict.”
“And so then if you say, ‘we’re going to do this debate and we’re going to leave everybody’s mics hot for the whole time, and we’re going to call on these people eight times and these people two times, and we’re going to shut these people’s mics off, and these people given 60 seconds and these people won’t even ring the bell if they’re talking for 90 seconds or two minutes.’ [sic] I mean watch the tape like a referee, and just see how uneven the rules were applied,” Burgum added.
Many conservatives criticized the RNC and moderators from Fox News, Fox Business and Univision for asking offensive questions with liberal framing.
Univision’s Ilia Calderón peppered the candidates with several questions during the second debate related to racism, discrimination and the LGBT community. Fox News’ Dana Perino ended the event by asking the contenders to write down which of them should be “voted off the island” in the primary, which candidates blasted her for.
“What were they trying to do? Were they trying to narrow the field? Were they trying to pick winners and losers? Or, are they trying to generate inter-candidate conflict?” Burgum asked.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy appeared to receive the most attention during the debate, while Burgum said he wasn’t called on for the first 40 minutes of the debate. The governor maintained that he has not reached out to the RNC to complain about the rules, and told the DCNF he will continue his work to “defy the odds.”
“The RNC will continue to enact a fair, transparent debate process and we will not give in to pressure from individuals seeking to change the rules to favor their candidacy,” a RNC spokesperson told the DCNF in a statement.
To make the first debate stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, candidates had to have 40,000 unique donors, with 200 coming from at least 20 different states or territories. The RNC also required GOP hopefuls to be polling at 1% or more in three national polls or 1% in two national and in two key early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
For the second debate in Simi Valley, California, the RNC upped the donor threshold to 50,000 and the polling criteria to 3% in two national polls or 3% in one national and two key early state surveys.
The third RNC debate will be held on Nov. 8 in Miami, Florida, and will be hosted by NBC News. Candidates must exceed 70,000 unique donors to make the stage, and be polling at 4% in two national polls or 4% in one national and in two key early state surveys.
The surveys for all of the debates had to have been recognized by the RNC by polling at least 800 likely GOP primary voters, not being affiliated with another campaign and be conducted after a certain date. Candidates must also have signed the loyalty pledge and several others to participate.
The RealClearPolitics (RCP) average for a 2024 national Republican primary, based on polls conducted between Sept. 27 to Oct. 15, indicate Burgum has 0.8% support, behind former President Donald Trump with 58.1%, DeSantis with 13.1%, Haley with 7.7%, Ramaswamy with 6%, former Vice President Mike Pence with 3.8%, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with 2.8% and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott with 2%.
Fox News did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
Mary Lou Masters on October 18, 2023