Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on Sunday that she expects Republicans will have to pledge their support to the ultimate party candidate to be allowed to participate in primary debates.

“We haven’t put the criteria out, but I expect a pledge will be part of it. It was part of 2016. I think it’s kind of a no-brainer, right? If you’re going to be on the Republican National Committee debate stage asking voters to support you, you should say, ‘I’m going to support the voters and who they choose as the nominee,'” she told CNN.m

McDaniel just defeated Harmeet Dhillon, a California RNC committee member and former Trump attorney, to win reelection and lead the RNC for the fourth consecutive term.

McDaniel’s comments come at a pivotal moment for the GOP, as the party plans to retake the precedency from the Democrats in 2024. RNC insiders are nervous about a general election with a divided base of support.


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Specifically, GOP leaders are worried about former President Donald Trump‘s loyalty to the party if he were to lose the 2024 Republican primary election.

“President Trump will support the Republican nominee because it will be him,” said one Trump campaign spokesperson on Sunday in response to McDaniel’s comments.

Trump, when asked earlier this month by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt whether or not he will back a hypothetical Republican candidate if he loses, said, “It would have to depend on who the nominee was.”

If Trump loses the Republican primary race and initiates his own independent campaign, the Republican party could face disaster.

Trump has influence over a large portion of the Republican base and splitting off into an independent campaign could drag many voters with him. It is probable in this hypothetical that he would be a “spoiler” candidate for Republicans, allowing Democrats to cruise to victory in 2024. This is because more Republican voters would choose to vote for Trump over their party nominee than Democrats would, splitting the conservative base into two camps that are individually too small to win a general election.

The RNC insider fear of “vote splitting” is not unfounded and has historical precedence. Both presidential candidates Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and Ross Perot in 1992 led strong campaigns outside of the party duopoly, which many historical analysts conclude took votes away from the candidate that was nearer to them on the political spectrum.

For Democrats, likely nothing would be better than if Trump narrowly loses the Republican race and launches his own unaligned campaign.

Former Trump U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy are the only two Republicans besides Trump to announce their 2024 candidacy for president so far, although Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—likely Trump’s biggest threat—is signaling that he may soon announce a presidential campaign as well.

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