Tags: GOP | RNC | fewer | debates | primary | 2016

First Shorter Calendar, Now GOP Seeks Fewer Debates in 2016

By John Gizzi   |   Monday, 27 Jan 2014 01:55 PM

No sooner had the Republican National Committee last week approved a shorter calendar for presidential primaries in 2016, than it turned its focus to dramatically slashing the number of GOP debates.

Several party leaders told Newsmax they expect National Chairman Reince Priebus to name a committee to study reducing the number of debates from the record 22 prior to Mitt Romney's nomination in 2012.

Priebus — dubbed "Reince the Prince" by many RNC members for guiding the party's historic change in its nomination process to fruition — has long said that the high number of debates in the 2012 primaries increased "slicing and dicing" within Republican ranks.

The panel named by Priebus is likely to recommend cutting the number of official Republican primary debates to seven or eight.

The committee's report will be voted on by the RNC Rules Committee at the party's spring meeting in Memphis, Tenn., and, if approved, taken up by the full RNC at the same meeting.

"We cannot be having all these runaway debates in which moderators unfairly inject things," South Carolina Committeewoman Cindy Costa told Newsmax. "Let the parties control the debates, how many there are, and who moderates them."

Costa said she thinks eight debates is sufficient, but added, "it could go up to 10, but no higher."

"I agree with Chairman Priebus that we 'sliced and diced' ourselves with too many debates in 2012," said South Dakota National Committeewoman Sandye Kading.

"We should be able to call the shots on how candidates are treated. If we don't, we'll pull in some moderator who will make a candidate look like mincemeat when it's all done."

Kading favors the low side when it comes to debates, saying "six to eight debates" should be enough for the 2016 election.

The first time Republican presidential contenders met in a national debate was 1948, when two of the candidates vying for nomination, New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey and former Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen, went one-on-one over national radio on the eve of the Oregon primary.

The first televised debates among GOP contenders came in 1980. They had four encounters, including the storied New Hampshire showdown in which a moderator ordered Ronald Reagan's microphone turned off and the eventual nominee shouted: "I am paying for this microphone!"

For 2016, the RNC plans to keep an eye on GOP candidates and play hardball if necessary.

"We are going to be tough on this one," said California National Committeeman Shawn Steel. "If a candidate accepts one debate beyond that on the RNC list, then that candidate will lose as much as one-third of his or her delegates.

"Overseeing the debates is even more important than what we did about the calendar of the nomination process," former Indiana RNC member James Bopp Jr., an expert on party rules, told Newsmax. "Debates are a weapon to destroy our candidates when in the hands of the liberal media. They keep asking questions about, 'Are you conservative enough on this?' and get candidates to appear too conservative.

"Democrats ban Fox News from debates their candidates are in and won't allow the same thing to happen to them. We can't allow the liberal media to do this again," Bopp said.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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