Florida GOP Requiring 2024 Candidates Sign Loyalty Pledge to Qualify in State’s Key Presidential Primary Contest

Florida GOP Requiring 2024 Candidates Sign Loyalty Pledge to Qualify in State’s Key Presidential Primary Contest
Former President Donald Trump speaks to crowd during a campaign event in Pickens, S.C., on July 1, 2023. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

The Florida Republican Party is imposing a new requirement in order for 2024 presidential candidates to make the Florida Republican primary ballot; they have to pledge to support the eventual 2024 Republican Party nominee.

During their meeting in mid-May, the Florida Republican Party Executive Committee made several changes to their primary procedures (pdf), including the adoption of a loyalty pledge in order for candidates to qualify for the March 19 Republican presidential primary ballot. The primary rule changes had not been widely distributed until recently, Politico reported on Wednesday.

The candidate loyalty pledge states: “I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination for President of the United States, I will endorse the 2024 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is. I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent, non-party affiliated, or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”

The new rule could prove consequential in the Republican primary field, where former President Donald Trump holds a consistent lead in national opinion polls.

The Republican National Committee announced a similar loyalty pledge in February in order for Republican 2024 candidates to qualify for the first primary debate.

Florida Republican Party Vice Chair Evan Power said the party chose the loyalty pledge rule to reflect the existing RNC debate requirement.

“We were trying to be consistent with what the debate was requiring,” said Mr. Power, who added that campaigns were notified of the changes.

“I don’t think this will come as a surprise,” he added.

After the RNC introduced its loyalty pledge requirement for Mr. Trump signaled a hesitance to sign a loyalty pledge or join the debate, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt that his loyalty commitment “would have to depend on who the nominee was.”

While Mr. Trump may skip the RNC debates, the loyalty pledge to qualify for the Florida Republican primary could prove more consequential. The state’s Republican primary is a winner-take-all system with 125 delegates up for grabs.

There are an estimated 2,467 delegates up for grabs in the 2024 Republican primary process. Florida’s 125 delegates could give any candidate about one-tenth of the delegates they need to reach a 1,276-delegate majority to win the contest.

2024 Candidates Push Back on Loyalty Pledges

Mr. Trump is not the only Republican 2024 candidate to show hesitation at the mention of a loyalty pledge.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the consistent second-place candidate in Republican primary polling, did not give a direct answer when asked at a June 22 press conference if he would support Mr. Trump if he’s the eventual Republican presidential nominee. Without giving a clear “yes” or “no” to the loyalty test question, Mr. DeSantis criticized Mr. Trump, noting the former president praised his handling of COVID-19 in Florida in 2020 but has since grown critical of Florida’s pandemic response record.

NTD News reached out to both the Trump and DeSantis campaigns for comment on the new Florida primary election rule. Neither campaign responded by the time this article was published.

Chris Christie, another 2024 Republican candidate, also appeared to knock the loyalty test requirement during a June 18 interview with CNN. During that interview, Mr. Christie said “I’m going to take the pledge just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,” in reference to the fact that Mr. Trump who signed a loyalty pledge in 2015 but appeared to back out of the commitment in March of 2016.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another 2024 Republican candidate, called the RNC’s loyalty pledge requirement for the debates “unhelpful” during a March 5 CNN interview. Mr. Hutchinson said he believed the RNC’s loyalty pledge was intended to specifically rein in a potential third-party run by Mr. Trump, but said the party’s 2016 loyalty pledge “weren’t effective.”