Tags: Trump Administration | 2016 | debate | summer | GOP

Massive 2016 GOP Field Poses Dilemma for Debate Format

By    |   Thursday, 30 April 2015 01:38 PM

The 2016 GOP presidential field is so wide open that party leaders will have a hard time figuring out a viable format for the debates that will kick off this summer.

According to The Hill, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, will face a dilemma about how to accommodate a growing field of potential candidates that is currently spanning upwards of twenty.

"You've got to prevent it from becoming a 'WWE SmackDown' event on national television," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill. "You don't want to bump everybody off the stage, but you have to realize your overarching goal is protecting the eventual nominee."

"I would think that Reince Priebus has been thinking about exactly this issue, and also about how to ensure that the debates don't turn into the ideological bloodfest that we saw in 2012, which pushed the whole ticket to the right," Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University told The Hill.

As a baseline, the three candidates who have already declared themselves will have slots: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are also expected to have secure slots given that they are leading in a variety of polls.

But as the field grows, it's unclear how the party will establish a cut-off.

The Hill noted a long list of potential candidates all of whom have left the door open to a possible run.

"Put it all together, and it poses a real dilemma for the RNC. The first televised debate is already set for August in Ohio on Fox News. The following three months will see further encounters in California on CNN, in Colorado on CNBC and in Wisconsin on Fox Business," The Hill said.

One option is to use polling as a mechanism to qualify, and earlier this year, Priebus said that the early presidential debates would necessarily have to be limited to candidates who garner some appreciable support in the polls.

But some observers question the validity of such an approach particularly since past contenders have sometimes polled poorly before emerging as formidable candidates.

"Early on, it's a name-recognition game when it comes to polling," Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor who specializes in political communications, told The Hill. "If you are going to say you have to meet a certain polling criteria, then it really becomes a question of 'who becomes best-known?' or 'who has just broken into a news cycle?'"

RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore did not reveal the current thinking, telling The Hill that the effort to find a practical solution was "a work in progress." It is expected, however, that the organization will need to issue its guidelines within a considerable amount of time before the debate season opens, The Hill said.

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The 2016 GOP presidential field is so wide open that party leaders will have a hard time figuring out a viable format for the debates that will kick off this summer.
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Thursday, 30 April 2015 01:38 PM
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