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Hutchinson decries GOP presidential primary debate criteria

Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Governor's Office
You Tube
Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks with lawmakers at the Arkansas State Capitol on Nov. 14, 2018.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the Republican National Committee should have minimal requirements for entry to the first debate among GOP presidential candidates.

The RNC on Friday released criteria candidates must meet to qualify for the Aug. 23 debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hutchinson and other declared candidates must pledge to support the eventual nominee, meet higher polling thresholds and agree not to participate in any other debates without the RNC's approval.

In a statement, Hutchinson said the rules could exclude GOP presidential hopefuls from reaching a national audience.

"I have always supported the party nominee, but I have never supported a party loyalty oath. The pledge should simply be that you will not run as a third party candidate," the statement reads.

As well as amassing campaign contributions from 40,000 unique donors nationwide, candidates must receive at least 200 individual donations in each of at least 20 states or territories.

"The 40,000 donor threshold will keep some candidates from being on the debate stage and benefits candidates who generate online donations through extreme rhetoric and scare tactics," Hutchinson said, adding candidates' exclusion would give voters in early primary states a limited view of the entire field of aspiring Republican nominees.

Candidates must have at least 1% support in three national polls, or 1% in two national polls and surveys from two early primary states; specifically Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Hutchinson has failed to clear over 1% in recent polls, with former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leading the crowded pack.

Despite that, Hutchinson vowed to participate in the debate and make his pitch to voters looking for an alternative to the two frontrunners.

"I do intend to be on the debate stage because it is important."

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.