Report: GOP Plans to Have Fewer Debates, Better Moderators in 2016 Election

Still stinging from the large number of primary debates that often changed the momentum from one Republican candidate to another during the 2012 presidential contest and liberal moderators who all asked questions that favored Democratic incumbent Barack Obama over GOP candidate Mitt Romney, Republican officials are “quietly advancing a new batch of rules aimed at streamlining” what they call a chaotic nominating process.

Those claims are taken from an article written by CNN's Peter Hamby, who stated he received information from “multiple GOP sources” that “handpicked members of the Republican National Committee” have been working with party chairman Reince Priebus in Washington, D.C., since August to sanction “a small handful of debates” in which party officials will have “a heavy appetite” for a much stronger say over who will moderate any encounters of presidential candidates.

Back in 2012, the three general election presidential debates were all moderated by left-of-center journalists from the self-described “mainstream” media: Candy Crowley of CNN, Jim Lehrer of the Public Broadcasting System and Bob Schieffer from CBS News.

As if that wasn't enough, the clash between vice presidential candidates Joe Biden -- the incumbent Democrat -- and Paul Ryan -- his Republican opponent -- was overseen by Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who hosted Obama as a guest at her 1991 wedding to the man who would later become the president's head of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski.

The outcome of the 2012 election cycle led the RNC to issue a report on March 18 in which the committee admitted there had been too many presidential debates “but only barely touched on the role that unfair media moderators played in both the nominating process and in the general election.”

Referring to that report, Hamby then stated:

The past two cycles, 2008 and 2012, featured 21 and 20 debates compared to 1980 and 1988, which featured only six and seven, respectively.

The report’s authors recommended hosting only about 10 debates, calling the recent number of candidate face-offs “ridiculous,” particularly considering that so many of them happened extremely early in the nominating process.

“One proposal being weighed by the RNC members would involve sanctioning a small handful of debates while penalizing candidates who participate in any non-sanctioned GOP debate by stripping them of one-third of their delegates to the national convention,” the CNN reporter added.

Another proposed change is moving the Republican National Convention to earlier in the year -- as far back as June -- to give the eventual candidate time to raise a substantial amount of funds. In 2012, Romney was outspent by Obama on a three-to-one basis in late August, and GOP officials hope that this move will put the Republican candidate on a level playing field since the Democratic incumbent cannot run for the White House again.

No party convention has been held that early since the summer of 1948, when Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey as their standard bearer in Philadelphia, Hamby said.

The subcommittee overseeing the proposed changes is “a mixed bag of veteran party pragmatists and grassroots conservatives who have bristled at past attempts to impose order on the primary and caucus process,” the CNN reporter added.

“But people on the subcommittee say the discussions have been cordial and productive,” he added, “a far cry from the internecine Republican warfare that has come to define the party during the Obama era.”

"I think all groups are being represented," said subcommittee member James Smack, a libertarian-leaning supporter of Ron and Rand Paul from Nevada.

Smack added:

The grassroots have a voice in that room. The so-called establishment has a voice in that room. And people who don't really fall into either camp have a voice in the room.

It's a friendly group. I thought it might be more adversarial, but to be honest, everybody has had their ability to be heard.

For many years, both parties held their conventions later in the summer, a strategic decision meant to preserve federal matching funds available to each candidate under public financing.

However, with campaigns now awash in outside money and permissive fund-raising regulations, it now makes little sense for candidates to wait for a smaller pot of publicly financed money.

Of all the changes, the convention date is seen as one of the most crucial and sought-after adjustments in the wake of Romney's 2012 loss, Hamby stated. “For many in the party, the primary process dragged on for too long, with too many loose ends and hurt feelings, before Romney was formally declared the nominee at the Tampa, Florida, convention in late August.”

Again, picking more moderators who are not obviously connected to the Democratic Party or other liberals would be a boost to the GOP candidate, whoever that happens to be. We can only guess how loudly the people in the “mainstream” media would shriek if the tables were turned and all the moderators in the 2016 campaign were conservatives.
 

Randy Hall
Randy Hall