Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who's running for the GOP presidential nomination, on Sunday called the Republican National Committee’s requirement for candidates to pledge support for the eventual nominee a “useless idea.”
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Christie said “I think the pledge is just a useless idea" when he was asked whether he'd pledge to support Donald Trump, the party’s front-runner, even if the former president is convicted of a felony.
“And by the way, in all my life, we never had to have Republican primary candidates take a pledge,” he said. “You know, we were Republicans. And the idea is you’d support the Republican whether you won or whether you lost. And you didn’t have to ask somebody to sign something.
“It’s only the era of Donald Trump that you need somebody to sign something on a pledge,” Christie added. “So I think it’s a bad idea,”
A spokesperson for the RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
The RNC is requiring presidential hopefuls to pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee if they want to participate in the GOP’s first primary debate in Milwaukee on Aug. 23.
Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another Republican contender, have both said they would sign the pledge. But both are outspoken critics of Trump and have also criticized the pledge, raising questions about whether they would follow through.
Trump hasn’t committed to signing the pledge: “There are probably people that I wouldn’t be very happy about endorsing who are running, so we’ll see,” he said in March. NBC News has reported that he is considering skipping the first Republican debates.
In an interview with ABC News this month, Christie said he would take the pledge “just as seriously as” Trump did in the 2016 election cycle.
“I’ll be on the debate stage, and I will take the pledge that the RNC puts in front of me just as seriously as Donald Trump did eight years ago,” Christie said, saying Trump “absolutely disregarded” the pledge in 2016 and faced no punishment.
Hutchinson indicated in early June that he would sign the pledge, telling NBC News: “I will do what we need to do to get on the debate.” But in an interview with Politico last week, said he wouldn't vote for Trump if he’s convicted on criminal charges in the classified documents case.
Hutchinson has also urged the RNC to add an addendum to its pledge that absolves signers from supporting a candidate “found guilty of espionage or a serious felony.”
Other requirements by the RNC for candidates to qualify for the debate stage include hitting a polling threshold and raising money from at least 40,000 unique donors, including 200 from at least 20 states and territories.