More debate drama for the GOP

The future of 2024 GOP primary debates remains in flux as two TV networks announced Thursday that they plan to hold debates that are not sanctioned by the Republican National Committee. 

CNN announced that it plans to hold a debate in Iowa on Jan. 10 and New Hampshire on Jan. 21 ahead of those states’ contests, and ABC announced its own plans for a New Hampshire debate with WMUR-TV three days earlier, on Jan.18, five days before the state’s primary. 

The announcements came shortly after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he hopes for a one-on-one debate with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, per NBC News’ Alex Tabet. 

DeSantis signaled that he could participate in the debates next month, sharing the debate announcements on X and writing that he is looking forward to debating.  

The RNC currently bars candidates who want to participate in RNC debates from participating in unsanctioned debates, but the committee is considering lifting that prohibition. Tabet and NBC’s Garrett Haake write that the RNC “is expected to let candidates decide whether they want to participate in additional debates,” per a source familiar with the committee’s deliberations.  

In other campaign news …  

Staff shifts: Americans for Prosperity staffers upset with the group’s decision to endorse Haley have joined the super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, including a New Hampshire operative becoming the latest staffer to make the jump, per NBC’s Katherine Doyle.  

Trump trials: A federal judge in Arizona dismissed a lawsuit this week that aimed to keep Trump off the state’s ballot for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. And Trump was back in court on Thursday, attending his civil fraud trial in New York. 

Fact check: NBC’s David Ingram digs into Haley’s claim during Wednesday’s debate that TikTok users are more likely to become antisemitic and support Hamas. 

Phillips’ fight: Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., plans to file challenges with the Democratic National Committee and state parties that have left him off of the Democratic primary ballot, per Semafor. 

Taking sides: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont., told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the committee will support businessman Eric Hovde’s Senate bid. Hovde has yet to announce a run, but Daines said Hovde will jump into the race. 

A special pick for Suozzi: New York Democrats on Thursday selected former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi as their nominee for the special election to replace former GOP Rep. George Santos. Republicans are expected to select their nominee early next week. GOP leaders are interviewing more than 20 candidates, and they’re working with a firm to conduct background research on the contenders after Santos fabricated much of his background.  

New map: Georgia Republicans approved a new congressional map on Thursday, dismantling one majority-minority district to create a court-ordered majority-Black district, NBC News’ Jane C. Timm reports.  

Open seat alert: Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., announced that she will not seek re-election, after North Carolina Republicans drew a new congressional map that makes her seat Republican-leaning.

Tomorrow’s Election Day: Voters will head to the polls on Saturday in Houston’s mayoral runoff election, selecting between two Democratic candidates — Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire.