RNC warns it will yank debate in New Hampshire if primary date shifts earlier

The Republican National Committee (RNC) warned the New Hampshire GOP on Friday that it will cut one of the party’s presidential debates if the state moves up its primary date ahead of the Iowa caucus.

The warning, first reported by Fox News, has increased tensions between the national GOP and New Hampshire, which has long pushed to be the first primary in the country.

“The first presidential primary will be taking place in New Hampshire, regardless of what the political power brokers in Washington, DC think,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement to Fox News. “We will not be threatened, we will follow our law, and we WILL go first. End of story.”

New Hampshire law requires that the state hold its primaries “first in the nation,” and the Granite State has traditionally gone just after Iowa in the Republican primary. This election, the national GOP placed Iowa first on its calendar — Jan. 15, 2024 — and put New Hampshire a week later.

Democrats made a more significant shift, pushing both Iowa and New Hampshire away from the front of the line. Iowa Democrats have tossed out that calendar, voting to hold their caucus the same day as Republicans on Jan. 15.

Iowa going first usually has not caused trouble, as the Hawkeye State uses a caucus system meaning that New Hampshire remains the first primary, but changes in Iowa this year complicate matters. Iowa is adding a mail-in component to the caucus this year, which has raised concerns in New Hampshire that it could break the “first primary in the country” rule.

Some New Hampshire Republicans are now pushing to leapfrog Iowa and hold their primary even earlier. That wouldn’t fly, the RNC said.

The RNC plans to hold a debate in every early primary state — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — but if New Hampshire moves their primary date, that debate will be cut, the party warned.

Sununu denounced the threat in a Fox News statement Friday.

“New Hampshire gives every candidate an even playing field and can catapult candidates to the presidency,” he said. “Threatening to take a debate away from New Hampshire is a disservice to every campaign and candidate that has worked tirelessly to earn the votes of New Hampshire’s Republican electorate.”

The second debate of the GOP primary race will be at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California on Wednesday night.

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