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RNC, Networks Consider Criteria for GOP Debates

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 06:15 PM

Largely behind the scenes, journalists and network executives from Fox News and CNN, with input from the national Republican Party, are working to hash out entrance criteria for the first two GOP presidential debates.

The 2012 election cycle featured what Republic National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus has described as a "23-debate circus."

This time, the RNC has taken control of the process in an effort to limit the total number of sanctioned debates to fewer than 12.

For the first two debates, options being considered include some combination of polling data and fundraising, which would be followed by "a fund-raising metric — dollars raised or the number of donors activated," according to Time.

The party is attempting "to whittle people out of the debates," said one Republican operative familiar with the debate process. "You've never had more than 10 candidates in either party on a debate stage. You could get to at least 16 to 17 candidates and make a legitimate case for them being there — easy."

Those who closely follow the process believe the first debate — which will be held in Cleveland in August — will be the most pivotal, and a candidate's absence could signal the death knell for their chances.

Those most hurt by being excluded would likely be Republicans like former Ambassador John Bolton and New York Rep. Peter King, who have traveled around the country boosting their name recognition without taking steps toward running.

Given his relatively strong polling in the Republican field, party insiders regard neurosurgeon Ben Carson as someone who is "all but guaranteed" a spot. On the other hand, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who barely registers in the polls, could face difficulty if she does not improve in the next few months.

Fiorina said Monday that she is "reasonably confident" she will make enough progress to be on the debate stage in Cleveland, adding that she believes "the polls will come along in due time."

Conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt — who will join in questioning candidates during the second debate in September at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California — argues in favor of including all credible candidates for the nomination, the vice presidency, "or a senior position in the next administration."

Hewitt has also suggested ("I am dead serious," he said on his radio show) that the debates be four hours long.

Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, has blasted the media for hyping third-tier candidates with little chance of winning in an effort to boost ratings. He urged news outlets to take steps to limit the debate stage to candidates with a real chance of winning.

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Largely behind the scenes, journalists and network executives from Fox News and CNN, with input from the national Republican Party, are working to hash out entrance criteria for the first two GOP presidential debates.
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2015-15-05
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 06:15 PM
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