Thursday may have been a rough day for CNN’s event department after both the cable network and ABC News with WMUR-TV announced they would be hosting a Jan. 21 Republican presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, for CNN, college officials when asked about the CNN event said they were only aware of the planned debate with ABC.
According to The Associated Press, earlier in the day, CNN had announced that it would host a debate on Jan. 10th at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa five days prior to the caucuses as well as the New Hampshire debate in question. Later that day ABC News and WMUR-TV announced their planned event which Saint Anselm College confirmed to reporters.
The Executive Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm, Neil Levesque went on record with the AP that he was unaware of any CNN event in the offing. “I have no idea about anything with any other network,” he told the wire service. Levesque was directly quoted in the ABC-WMUR press release, however, he was not in the CNN release the same day.
According to a CNN spokesman on Friday the network is still “moving forward with our plans to host a debate in New Hampshire on January 21,” however, they declined to “speak to any miscommunication within Saint Anselm.”
New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Chris Ager clarified the matter by posting to X, “The only NH Presidential debate sanctioned by the NHGOP is the ABC/WMUR/ Saint Anselm College debate on January 18, 2024. Looking forward to sharing more details in the following days.”
The only NH Presidential debate sanctioned by the NHGOP is the ABC/WMUR/ Saint Anselm College debate on January 18, 2024.
Looking forward to sharing more details in the following days.
— NHGOP Chairman Chris Ager (@NHGOPChairman) December 8, 2023
According to The Boston Globe, Ager told them “Something is not quite right with that CNN announcement.”
“We’re pretty collegial up here,” he added. “We like to coordinate and talk with people and be friendly. … It could have been a miscommunication, but it’s definitely a head-scratcher.”
While he agreed that another event on Jan. 18th adds enough time before the Jan. 23rd primary for voters to digest the information gleaned from the debate he said that an event on Jan. 21 would be cutting it awfully close.
“Less than 48 hours before the polls open, to do a debate? I’m not so sure the timing is right,” he said. “I’m also a little bit concerned about their criteria.”
Ager theorized that CNN could be seeking to “winnow the field to only the people they want,” by holding off until Jan. 21st. But he added, “In New Hampshire, we like to have as many people as are credible candidates continue to get visibility so the voters decide, not a network. … We want the voters of New Hampshire to winnow the field.”