Republican White House hopefuls seek to set TV debate terms
The closed-door gathering late Sunday came amid criticism of how broadcaster CNBC handled the most recent GOP primary debate, which was held in Colorado last week.
CNBC moderators who hosted it have faced a fierce backlash, with candidates and observers slamming them for being too aggressive, straying off the announced topic of economics and finance, and pitting candidates against one another.
Candidates with lower poll numbers have also expressed anger about being sidelined to lesser watched, second-tier debates before their higher polling competitors take the stage.
Sunday evening’s roughly two-hour meeting at a hotel in Alexandria, near the US capital, brought together advisors from most of the Republican contenders, according to The New York Times.
They are expected to send a letter outlining their demands to TV networks within 48 hours, said the newspaper, reporting that these include opening and closing statements of at least 30 seconds and substantively similar questions for all candidates.
The Times and other outlets reported that representatives at the meeting also moved to take the Republican National Committee (RNC) out of the negotiating process with the TV networks.
Republican lawyer and meeting facilitator Ben Ginsberg told reporters that campaigns should be able to get information about the details of a debate “far sooner” than they have so far in this election cycle.
“The campaigns themselves were not talking to the debate sponsors,” he said in broadcast remarks. “The information flow has not been nearly what it has been in past years.”
As fallout from the CNBC debate grew, the RNC on Friday suspended a partnership with NBC News and its Spanish-language network Telemundo for the primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26. And in a further attempt at damage control Sunday, it named a new official to work with the campaigns and the TV networks, according to Politico.
But there was also disagreement among the campaigns during Sunday’s meeting, with Jeb Bush’s representatives — eyeing Hispanic voters — pushing to reinstate Telemundo for the February 26 debate, something the campaign for Donald Trump said they would boycott, according to The Times.
Politico reported that the demands, which it said also included a two-hour time limit and an equal number of questions per candidate, would take effect after the next debate, scheduled to be held November 10 on Fox Business.