In a defiant move reflecting his independent approach to politics, President Donald Trump said this week he would not be putting pen to paper on the Republican National Committee (RNC) loyalty pledge, a prerequisite for candidates to appear in the upcoming first primary debate.
The loyalty pledge, coined as the “Beat Biden pledge” by the RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, is aimed at curbing intra-party disputes during the primaries and the general election. Those who sign commit to supporting the eventual GOP 2024 nominee and vow not to initiate a third-party or write-in campaign.
— New York Post (@nypost) August 10, 2023
In his candid style, Trump shared his reservations about the oath: “I wouldn’t sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t have certain people as somebody that I would endorse.”
Trump remains a commanding figure within the party. A glimpse at the RealClearPolitics polling average reveals Trump leading his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by around 40 percentage points.
RNC’s decision to require candidates to sign a loyalty pledge isn’t without its critics. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) remarked, “I’m going to take the pledge just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016.”
Yet, despite Trump’s conspicuous refusal, other GOP frontrunners haven’t shied away. DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have both submitted their signed pledges to the RNC.
Trump’s hesitance to participate in the first debate, scheduled for August 23 in Milwaukee, adds another layer of suspense. Addressing his potential attendance, the former president remarked, “I’ve already decided, and I’ll be announcing something next week.” He further mused about the advantages of attending, questioning the “upside” of participating given his dominant position in the polls.
The RNC, undeterred by Trump’s reluctance, has reiterated the importance of the pledge, emphasizing unity within the party ranks. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel urged that if “you want to win the nomination, you’ve got to get in front of those primary voters.”
Yet, Trump has never been one to follow conventional wisdom. Those with longer political memories will recall his decision to skip a 2016 primary debate, opting instead to host a fundraiser for veterans’ organizations.
In a political landscape where predictability is prized, Trump’s unorthodox election strategies resonate with a base seeking an alternative to the status quo.