Katie Glueck at Politico reports:
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview posted Wednesday that there is an “opportunity” for the RNC to take charge of the presidential debate process in upcoming elections.
“If you have 10 presidential candidates, and seven out of 10 or eight out of 10 will take whatever two-hour slot that is open to them, then you end up with a debate anytime some cable network decides to hold one,” Priebus told National Review. “You can’t control that situation. Our endeavor is to come up with some idea that helps us control that situation.”
He said in the interview that the RNC now has the chance to link “the nomination process to the debate calendar.”
“Now, we didn’t have that opportunity two years ago; there is no mechanism to tie the nomination process to the debate calendar,” he said. “But we have that opportunity now. We can do that with a three-quarters vote of the Republican National Committee…. The RNC could hypothetically say, ‘Look, here’s the debate calendar. Here are the moderators. We’re going to have one debate a month starting on this day.’”
Candidates, he said in the story, will have to abide by that schedule in order to clinch the nomination. The RNC could enforce that, Priebus added, through carrots and sticks: “either through bonus delegates or penalties of delegates subtracted.”
The presidential primary debate process came under fire in last campaign season, and some Republicans said after the election that Romney had become damaged goods by the time the GOP debates came to an end. Priebus himself voiced opposition to the lengthy primary debate process as early as April of 2011.
“The idea of 20 different forums and 20 different groups is a little much,” he said at the time. “We need to have some order in our debate process.”
This time around, Priebus said, the party has leverage.
“There is one major reason that a presidential candidate needs the Republican Party: To get on the ballot in November, a presidential candidate must get a majority of delegates at a national convention to vote for him or her,” he told the conservative publication. “If the presidential candidate can’t make that happen, he or she is not on the ballot. So that is one idea that we will be looking at.”