CNN surprised everyone late last week by announcing a New Hampshire debate in January with strict criteria, requiring candidates to poll at or above 10 percent. The decision, while transparent, aims to narrow down the field. Adding to the surprise, CNN revealed St. Anselm College as the debate venue, but here’s the twist – St. Anselm College wasn’t aware of this until the announcement.

In a Friday morning interview with Chris Ryan on WGIR New Hampshire’s News, NH GOP Chairman Chris Ager had this to say.

“The NHGOP has partnered with ABC & WMUR & St. Anselm’s for the 18th [of January] debate. We’ve had zero communications with CNN, so we’re really not sure what they’re doing. And they announced St. A’s as a location, and that was a surprise to St. A’s. So I’m not sure; something doesn’t seem quite right about the CNN announcement.”

CNN also wanted to host this debate on Sunday, Jan. 21, less than forty-eight hours before New Hampshire residents head to the polls to cast their ballots in the First in the Nation Primary.

This doesn’t seem ideal for candidates who will be jetting around the state to engage with voters face-to-face in the final hours before the polls open.

When discussing this aspect, Chairman Ager said, “Thursday [the 18th] makes more sense than Sunday [the 21st] because if a candidate says something or something goes a certain way, they’d have time to explain it. Or if someone makes an egregious claim, it gives the chance for voters to ponder. But having multiple major debates in the same week, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But we’ll see what happens.”

WMUR is more in touch with the pulse of New Hampshire voters than CNN. It has a vested interest in informing New Hampshire voters as much as it can throughout the primary process. Breaking the long-standing tradition of WMUR and St. Anselm College hosting a primary debate wouldn’t sit well with long-time Granite Staters who count on their hometown being directly involved in the decision-making process.

This can be seen on its face that a media outlet jumped the gun to prevent the NHGOP from helping New Hampshire voters make their decision in the state’s Republican primary. And trying to dictate who participates in a Republican debate by setting qualification thresholds that only favored candidates could meet, voters can see right through this attempt to suppress the voices of all who are making the mad dash toward the finish line.

On January 23, voters should have the decisive role in choosing their preferred candidate. In the preceding days, it’s crucial that they receive ample opportunities to hear from all contenders still in the race. Determining “top tier” candidates should rest solely with Granite Staters, and CNN should not attempt to assume that responsibility.

Kevin Smith is the New Hampshire state party co-chair for Vivek Ramaswamy’s 2024 presidential campaign. He wrote this for