CNN will hold two Republican presidential debates in Iowa and New Hampshire next month in the days leading up to those states’ nominating contests, the network said on Thursday.
The announcement, made a day after the fourth debate this year, comes as the Republican National Committee weighs whether to loosen its rules and allow candidates to take part in debates that it does not sponsor. A spokesman for the committee, Keith Schipper, said on social media that it had not approved the CNN debates.
The committee approved four debates this year, steadily raising the minimum thresholds for participation and pushing out lower-polling candidates.
The current Republican front-runner, former President Donald J. Trump, did not attend any of the debates. His campaign did not immediately respond to a question about whether he would join the CNN events.
The Republican Party had suggested it might hold forums in January in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but multiple people involved in the process said those debates might no longer be sponsored by the party.
Almost immediately on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has staked his campaign’s success on a strong showing in Iowa, said he would participate in the debate there.
That gathering will be held on Jan. 10 at Drake University in Des Moines, five days before the Iowa caucuses. The network will allow candidates to participate only if they have received at least 10 percent in three separate national or Iowa polls, with at least one poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers.
The second debate is scheduled for Jan. 21 at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H., two days before the New Hampshire primary election. The top three finishers in Iowa will be invited to participate. Otherwise, the criteria are similar to the Iowa debate.