Two networks announce GOP presidential debates just days apart at same New Hampshire school

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two television networks on Thursday announced they would hold separate Republican presidential debates at the same location in New Hampshire just ahead of that state’s GOP primary next month, but officials at Saint Anselm College said they were only aware of one of the events.

CNN said earlier in the day that it would 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 Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, two days before that state’s leadoff primary.

Later Thursday, ABC News and WMUR-TV announced that they would partner for a Jan. 18 debate at Saint Anselm College.

Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm, told The Associated Press he was not aware of any planning for an event with CNN.

“I have no idea about anything with any other network,” Levesque said Thursday night, referring to the CNN event.

Levesque was quoted in a news release about the ABC and WMUR-TV debate, noting that both Democratic and Republican candidates had participated in debates at the college in every presidential cycle since 2008.

No Saint Anselm official was quoted in CNN’s release about its Iowa and New Hampshire debates, although Drake University — the site of CNN’s Iowa debate — did issue its own news release about that event.

A CNN spokesperson on Friday declined to “speak to any miscommunication within Saint Anselm” but said in a statement that the network was “moving forward with our plans to host a debate in New Hampshire on January 21.”

The debate announcements 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.

The RNC said in a statement Friday that the debates scheduled for January were not affiliated with the RNC but that candidates would be permitted to participate if they wanted to.

“Candidates are free to use any forum or format to communicate to voters as they see fit,” the RNC said.

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

CNN said candidates who finish in one of the top three spots in the Iowa caucuses would be invited to participate in its New Hampshire debate, as well as those who meet CNN’s polling qualification, which include 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 Jan. 2. It’s Jan. 16 for the New Hampshire debate.

ABC and WMUR-TV did not specify qualifications for their New Hampshire debate, saying the information would be released at a later date.


Associated Press writer Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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