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GOP Candidates Want More Control Over Primary Debates

With this year’s Republican primary debates drawing in record audiences and generating tons of public discussion, they’ve become a huge factor in determining who may be the frontrunner in next year’s general Presidential election. GOP Presidential candidates—frontrunners and underdogs alike—have expressed frustration with how these debates have been run, and are now asking for more influence over how they’re formatted.

Advisers and campaign managers for 11 different candidates met over the weekend to discuss changes that could be made for the next debate, which will take place on November 10 in Milwaukee. With such a crowded pool of candidates, many feel that with a two-hour cap on the televised debates, they do not have nearly enough time to express their views on issues and policies.


The campaigns of less popular candidates such as Senator Lindsay Graham, former Senator Rick Santorum, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are proposing “equal treatment” alongside the frontrunners, meaning two debates with seven candidates selected at random. Ben Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, is proposing one debate (still capped at two hours) with every candidate on stage at once—but other candidates feel this will only worsen the issue of giving each candidate enough stage time.

“One of the big goals is allowing for more substance and equal time,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager (and daughter), according to the Washington Post. “It does make that difficult if there are multiple candidates but the debate’s capped at two hours.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was unhappy with the way CNBC, the network that broadcast the last debate, described him to the audience in his biography, which did not include his accomplishments as governor. His advisors are asking that candidates have input into their biographies before they are put on the air. The RNC has since suspended NBC News from further involvement in debates.

Candidates have also expressed dissatisfaction with the moderators of the debates.

“When you don’t have a single conservative moderator, when the moderation earns boos from the audience — I mean, I’ve never seen that before where an audience booed the moderation,” candidate Carly Fiorina said on This Week after the CNBC debate in Colorado. The moderators—CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood—asked questions that many feel were pointed and biased.

“Questions from moderators about someone’s morality are uncalled for, and that’s the kind of approach we’d like to see changed,” Sanders said.

The Republican campaign executives are currently in the process of signing off on a letter with official requests for changes, and it is set to be released Tuesday. It’ll be interesting to see how these requests will be accommodated—Should conservative figures be moderating conservative debates, or someone neutral altogether? Would you rather every candidate have equal speaking time, or that candidates have a chance to really dive into their stances on issues?

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Meghan Murphy

Northeastern

Meghan is a third-year Communications and Media student at Northeastern University in Boston. A proud New Jersey native, she is an aspiring writer and producer hoping to someday live in New York City. Meghan loves sushi, exploring new cities (London is her favorite), all things Harry Potter, and spending time with friends and family.
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