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Priebus: Debate Allows for 'Some Jabs,' but No 'Total Destruction'

Image: Priebus: Debate Allows for 'Some Jabs,' but No 'Total Destruction'
Reince Priebus, RNC chairman. (Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 06 Aug 2015 09:28 AM

With such a large field of candidates, "containment" will be the key word for the looming GOP debates in Cleveland, according to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, but he is excited about the attention that the fierce campaign is already bringing to his party.

"You know, we've got 17 people on the stage," Priebus told CNN's "New Day" program  Thursday morning. "You have to figure out a way to give everyone an opportunity — which we did — and still put on a production that people can watch and feel like they're getting the interaction that they need."

But still, with so many candidates, "you have to have that balance between allowing some jabs back and forth and some elbows, but not total destruction," Priebus told host Chris Cuomo. "So, containment is the word that's in my head at all times."

Story continues below video.

Priebus told Cuomo that he's been "taking heat" from some who are not happy about the selection process for the debate. Fox News, which is moderating Thursday's event, opted to pick the 10 leading candidates for the prime-time stage, based on their national polling numbers, and putting the seven lower-tier candidates in a televised debate before the main event.

"One thing that people don't understand, Chris, is that we're not a staging organization, meaning the Republican National Committee," Priebus told Cuomo. "We did a lot of things. No. 1, we're not going to have 23 debates. We're only going to have eight or nine, or maybe a few more than that."

Further, the RNC wanted some say over who the moderators were, and the format allowed that.

"The one piece that we can't do is become a staging organization under the Federal Election Commission," said Priebus. "And if people want me to violate FEC laws and start dictating to networks what it is they can or cannot do with their air time, I can't do that."

Turning to the front-runner heading into the debates, Priebus told Cuomo that he has had "great conversations with Donald Trump," and that they "talk pretty regularly, as I do with almost all of the candidates."

Priebus said he also doesn't see Trump's "mindset where people think it is," as he does want to be the Republican nominee, dismissing talk of the New York real estate magnate possibly launching a third party campaign if he loses the nomination.

"He knows if Hillary Clinton is going to get beat or Joe Biden is going to get beat, they're going to get beat by a Republican, and that's where he's at," said Priebus.

He also thinks Trump's rise is because he "has tapped in to something where people are tired of the veneer and the plasticized politics that we get."

As for the debates, "those people tuning in today are going to see Donald Trump and nine other candidates on the stage. It's up to us as a party to put our best foot forward."

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With such a large field of candidates, "containment" will be the key word for the looming GOP debates in Cleveland, according to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, but he is excited about the attention the fierce campaign is already bringing to his party...
priebus, debate, gop, format, jabs
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2015-28-06
Thursday, 06 Aug 2015 09:28 AM
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