GOP trying to cut the number of primary debates
The Republican National Committee is moving decisively to limit the number of debates held during the presidential primary season.
In 2012, there were 20 debates - a number that some GOP leaders believed unnecessarily exposed the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, to attacks from Presdent Obama. There was also a feeling that the format of the debates played into the hands of liberal media.
The goal now would be to have between 6-10 debates, and include more conservative media.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has said repeatedly he would like to end the “slice and dice festival” that occurred in 2012, when Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and the rest of the GOP field tore into each other during a drawn-out series of primaries and in 20 nationally televised debates.
In 2016, the goal would be to have six to 10 GOP debates before February or March 2016.
A proposal to be voted on Friday at the RNC meeting in Memphis would penalize candidates who participate in debates that aren’t sanctioned by the committee. Any candidate who takes part in a non-sanctioned debate would be barred from future debates that have the blessing of the RNC.
An RNC committee would determine the penalties that would dissuade candidates from taking part in a rogue debate.
During the 2012 campaign’s debate season, there were 13 Republican debates before the Iowa caucuses were held in January. The New Hampshire primary was scheduled for a week later, so two debates were held back-to-back before Granite State voters went to the polls. Not all of the candidates took part in each debate.
The RNC proposal calls for a debate committee to be appointed that would work out the timing and location of these primary debates and — perhaps most importantly — work with media partners to pick debate moderators, including “conservative journalists being more involved in the process.”
The plethora of debates did not cost the GOP the presidency in 2012. But the number of them sure didn't help. For the liberal media, it was a turkey shoot - far too easy to take pot shots at Republicans and make them look bad. A change in format would be welcome in that respect.
But is it a good idea to cut the number of debates? It's axiomatic that primary voters in a particular state pay a lot more attention to the race if a nationally televised debate occurred in their state prior to the vote. But with the plan to have a much shorter primary season, it becomes less important to satisfy party members in a particular state.
Six debates is probably too few and 10 may be too many. Whatever number they arrive at won't be as important as when they'll be held and where. Some debates are traditional - Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina to name three. Beyond that, a geographical split would probably be the best solution.