Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said Sunday it was a “useless idea” to force 2024 GOP contenders to sign a pledge to back the party’s ultimate nominee in order to participate in primary debates.
“It’s only in the era of Donald Trump that you need somebody to sign something on a pledge. So I think it’s a bad idea,” the former New Jersey governor told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” about the Republican National Committee requirement.
Christie, who kicked off his presidential bid earlier this month, said he’s expressed his views directly to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, “so this is not the first time she’s hearing it.” But he affirmed that he would do what was needed to be up on the stage to try to save my party and save my country from going down the road of being led by three-time loser Donald Trump.”
“I’ll take the pledge in 2024 just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,” Christie said.
Trump, as a candidate in 2015, did not rule out an independent run for president at a debate in Cleveland. He ultimately signed a pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee and to not run as a third-party candidate if he did not win the GOP nomination.
McDaniel has repeatedly supported requiring a so-called loyalty pledge for participation in the GOP debates, telling CNN on Friday it was a “no-brainer.”
“Once it’s all done and the dust is settled and you’ve made your best case, if the voters choose someone else, then you need to get behind who the voters chose and make sure we beat Joe Biden,” McDaniel said. “We can’t have division. We can’t have people who get on the debate stage who are going to come out and say, ‘I’m not going to support the eventual nominee.’”
Most of the GOP primary field has signaled support for the pledge, including most recently former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, whose campaign had previously sought to amend to pledge.
“You have to make the pledge based on the fact that Donald Trump is not going to be our nominee and you’re confident of it. Therefore, you can sign a statement saying you’re going to support the nominee of the party. I’m not going to, you know, support – just like other voters are not going to support – somebody for president who is under indictment,” Hutchinson told ABC News on Sunday.
Trump pleaded not guilty in federal court last week to 37 charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office.
The RNC announced earlier this month that the first presidential primary debate will take place on August 23 in Milwaukee. Qualifying candidates will need to register at least 1% in three national polls, or a combination of national polls and a poll from the early-voting states recognized by the RNC. Candidates will also need “a minimum of 40,000 unique donors to candidate’s principal presidential campaign committee (or exploratory committee), with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in 20+ states and/or territories,” the RNC said in a statement.
A recent CNN Poll found Trump was the first choice of 53% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the primary, roughly doubling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 26%. Other hopefuls were all polling in the single digits, including Christie, Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.