CNN to host GOP primary debates

WASHINGTON -- Two Republican presidential primary debates have been scheduled in Iowa and New Hampshire in January, not long before each state's GOP nominating contest.

CNN said Thursday it will host a Jan. 10 debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, five days before the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses, and a Jan. 21 debate at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H., two days before that state's leadoff primary.

The announcement came a day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie met for the fourth debate of the 2024 primary season. Former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner for the 2024 nomination, has yet to take part in any debate and has said he doesn't plan to.

Keith Schipper, the Republican National Committee's communications director, posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that the CNN events "are not RNC-sanctioned debates." According to a person familiar with the plans, the RNC's Debates Committee is discussing releasing candidates from prohibitions on participating in debates not approved by the party, but that decision has not yet been made. The person was not authorized to discuss the plans publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The qualifications for candidates to participate in the debates are getting stricter. To qualify for the Iowa debate, candidates must register at least 10% support in three separate polls, either nationally or in Iowa, according to CNN.

Candidates who finish in one of the top three spots in the Iowa caucuses will be invited to participate in the New Hampshire debate, as well as those who meet CNN's polling qualifications, which includes a 10% polling threshold in New Hampshire.

One of the three polls must be an approved CNN poll from the respective state. Unlike previous debates approved by the RNC, participants are not required to meet fundraising marks from a specific number of donors.

The qualifying window for the Iowa debate closes on Jan. 2. It's Jan. 16 for the New Hampshire debate.