Republican Party sets first presidential debate in US swing state

The debate, to be held in Wisconsin, is expected to feature Republican candidates like Donald Trump and Nikki Haley.

A photo shows the logo of the Republican National Committee
The Republican National Committee also weighed whether to ask debate participants to pledge support for the party's eventual nominee [File: Rainier Ehrhardt/AP Photo]

The body that governs the Republican Party, one of two major political groups in the United States, has announced that its first presidential debate will take place in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On Thursday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) decided to kick off its debates this August in the crucial midwestern swing state, which narrowly tilted in favour of Democrat Joe Biden in the last presidential election.

Details such as the debate’s date and location have yet to be decided.

“At this time, no other debates have been sanctioned, nor has the final criteria for the first debate been decided,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote in a message to the party’s members on Thursday. “We have a long way to go, but I am confident we will be able to showcase our eventual nominee in a world class fashion.”

In the weeks ahead, the RNC will lay out criteria for participation in the debates as the contest for the Republican presidential nomination starts to move forward.

The committee is considering between 10 and 12 debates, to be held from August until the date of its national convention in 2024, when it will formally choose a nominee to represent the party in that year’s presidential election.

Only two Republican candidates have launched their campaigns so far, one of whom is former President Donald Trump. While critics say his campaign has yet to generate much heat, Trump still commands enormous influence among the party’s voters.

Trump announced his candidacy in November 2022, shortly after the US midterm elections. But he remains under scrutiny for his actions on January 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 elections.

That vote saw Trump, the incumbent, lose the presidency to Biden. In the time since, Trump has spread false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him.

Trump is also subject to other ongoing investigations, including into his handling of classified documents and accusations of election meddling in states like Georgia.

On Thursday, a US judge ordered Trump to be questioned in a pair of lawsuits brought by officials who claim they were subject to a political pressure campaign under his administration.

Besides Trump, the only other candidate to announce their bid for the Republican nomination has been Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor. Haley also served in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2018 as US ambassador to the United Nations.

In announcing her run for the presidency earlier this month, Haley highlighted her heritage as the “proud daughter” of Indian immigrants. The 51-year-old also called for a “new generation of leadership”.

“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change,” she said in her announcement. In the US, presidents are elected through the electoral college system, not the popular vote.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is also seen as a potential candidate, as is Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, but neither has announced their candidacy.

On Thursday, the RNC’s debate committee articulated its intent to ask each debate participant to pledge their support for the party’s eventual nominee.

That nominee will square off in the 2024 election against the Democratic Party candidate, with Biden popularly seen as the presumptive nominee.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies