RNC caves on Iowa Thanksgiving forum ban after DeSantis declares, ‘I’m going to be there’

The Republican National Committee has backed down over a threat to ban candidates who participated in a Christian group’s upcoming Thanksgiving forum from future debates, caving after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that would be going anyway.

In another humiliation for RNC boss Ronna McDaniel who’s had a miserable week, the Sunshine State Republican made it clear that he wasn’t taking any guff from the party bosses when he rejected the threats of being prevented from appearing on stage during the nationally televised debates by making it clear that he would be participating in the event, the Family Leader’s Thanksgiving Family Forum which is scheduled for November 17 in Des Moines, IA.

“I’m going to be there at The Family Leader. I think it’s an important part of this process,” DeSantis said in a Saturday post to X, formerly known as Twitter. “There’s no way that should cause the RNC to penalize any candidate. I’ll be here no matter what happens.”

“It has come to the attention of the RNC Counsel’s Office that several Republican presidential candidates have been invited to participate in an open-press event in Iowa in November at which they would ‘gather around the table to have a moderated, friendly, and open discussion about the issues.’ In other words, a debate,” the office of the RNC’s Counsel said in a letter.

“Accordingly, please be advised that any Republican presidential candidate who participates in this or other similar events will be deemed to have violated this pledge and will be disqualified from taking part in any future RNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates,” the RNC said in its threatening notice that was first reported by Real Clear Politics.

Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats confirmed that the RNC had run up the white flag on its hardliner stance.

“The RNC and I have agreed on the format of @TheFamilyLeader November 17 Thanksgiving FAMiLY Forum. The Forum is NOT a debate. Thus, the RNC is giving a thumbs up for candidates to participate. Thanks to the RNC for facilitating a win/win for the process,” he said in a post to X on Saturday.

The climbdown caps off a rough several days for Mitt Romney’s niece after the party was drubbed in off-year elections, spurring calls for her resignation, one of them from GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy who called her out onstage during Wednesday’s debate in Miami, FL where she was in attendance.

“Join The FAMiLY Leader as the top presidential candidates gather around the table to have a moderated, friendly and open discussion about the issues that are most important to evangelical Americans today. With national media attention, this is an opportunity for the candidates and discerning Christian voters to hear and be heard, encourage each other, and ultimately choose well in the next general election. This is a conversation you’ll want to hear,” the Family Leader describes the event on its website.


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