Trump says he won’t sign Republican loyalty pledge, flouting debate requirement

Republican president candidate former President Donald Trump dances at the conclusion of his remarks at a campaign rally, Tuesday Aug. 8, 2023, at Windham High School in Windham, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Republican president candidate former President Donald Trump dances at the conclusion of his remarks at a campaign rally, Tuesday Aug. 8, 2023, at Windham High School in Windham, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday he won’t sign a pledge to support the Republican nominee if he loses the GOP presidential primary, flouting a requirement for appearing in the first debate later this month.

“Why would I sign it?” Trump said in an interview on the conservative cable network Newsmax. “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”

He declined to name the candidates he wouldn’t support, saying “there’s no reason to insult them.” But he singled out South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy for praise, saying they “have been very nice.”

Trump said he will announce next week whether he’ll participate in the debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, but his refusal to sign the pledge suggests he plans to make good on his threat to skip it. Trump has repeatedly questioned why he should debate his rivals given his substantial polling lead and has suggested he might hold a competing event instead.

On Wednesday, he pushed back against former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s taunts, telling Newsmax’s Eric Bolling that there’s no upside to participating in a debate when he’s already leading by a wide margin.

“Its not a question of guts. It’s a question of intelligence,” Trump said.

Eight candidates say they have met qualifications to be on stage in Milwaukee, with former Vice President Mike Pence announcing this week he had secured enough donors. Candidates need to satisfy polling and donor requirements set by the Republican National Committee: at least 1% in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early-state polls, between July 1 and Aug. 21, and a minimum of 40,000 donors, with 200 in 20 or more states.

They also must sign a statement pledging not to participate in any debates not sanctioned by the party, including the general election debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and to support the winner of the Republican primary.

“I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination of President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden,” the pledge says, according to a copy posted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. Candidates also must pledge not to run as an independent, write-in candidate or third-party nominee.

The pledge has been criticized by some candidates including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has been fiercely critical of Trump.

Only former Texas Rep. Will Hurd has said definitively that he will not sign the 2024 pledge, though he has not met the polling and fundraising thresholds required to attend. He said he won’t support Trump, who has been indicted three times, if he becomes the eventual nominee.

Politics reporter based in Phoenix