RNC Replaces NBC News With CNN For February Debate
Back in October, the Republican National Committee suspended its debate partnership with NBC for a debate that was scheduled to be held at the end of February in advance of the what has come to be called the “SEC Primary,” a Super Tuesday like day on which a number of southern states will hold their primaries. This suspension was largely in response to the widely derided debate held on October 28th and aired on CNBC in which the debate moderators strayed far from the economic subjects intended to be the subject of the debate and clearly lost control of the debate, an event which led to an aborted effort by the campaigns to try to take control of the debate process themselves. That February debate was never officially removed from the calendar, though, and now the RNC has announced that NBC has been replaced as the media sponsor of the debate with CNN:
The Republican National Committee officially severed ties on Monday with NBC for what was supposed to be a Feb. 26 Republican primary debate in Houston. Instead, CNN will host the debate in Houston on Thursday, Feb. 25, five days before Super Tuesday.
The committee voted via conference call Monday after negotiations with NBC failed, two sources familiar with the call confirmed. The RNC initially suspended the relationship with NBC on Oct. 30, following a debate on CNBC that angered many of the campaigns and the RNC for the network’s handling of the debate format and the moderators’ line of questioning.
At the time, NBC said it looked forward to working in “good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party.”
Though NBC won’t be a part of the debate, NBC-owned Telemundo will still take part as will the original conservative media partner National Review. Salem Communications, which has partnered with CNN for its previous two Republican primary debates will also participate.
“The Republican National Committee has decided to move forward without NBC’s participation in our February debate in Houston, Texas. The RNC has awarded the debate to CNN, who will broadcast it on Thursday, February 25th in Houston at a location to be decided,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a statement.
CNN has already hosted two of the Republican debates this cycle, in September at the Reagan Library in California and last month in Las Vegas. The network will also host another debate in Florida in March, meaning that CNN will host as many debates for the GOP as Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network combined. By and large, the CNN debates have been quite good, although both of them were characterized by large numbers of people on the main stage thanks to the size of the Republican field. One suspects that the field will be much smaller by the time the February debate rolls around, and certainly much smaller by the time the March debate rolls around. Indeed, by the time that March debate rolls around the GOP field is likely to be winnowed down to two or three candidates, which could make things quite interesting to say the least. At the very least, I think we can say with confidence that there will be no undercard debate in March, and probably not in February either, so that will be an hour of our time that won’t be wasted.
Interestingly, the RNC will continue its relationship for the February debate with Telemundo for a Spanish simulcast of the debate notwithstanding the fact that Telemundo is owned by NBC’s parent company. If nothing else, this is a sign that the party is at least partly aware of the value of trying to keep reaching out to the Latino community notwithstanding the fact that Donald Trump’s candidacy has largely been a walking, talking warning sign to that community that the Republican Party isn’t really the place for them. It’s unclear though, if Telemundo reporters will be participating in the questioning of the candidates. If it does, the most logical candidate for that role would be Jose Diaz-Balart, although that could be awkward since Diaz-Balart is also an anchor on MSNBC. In any case, it was always clear that this February debate would go forward, the only question was where it would air. Apparently, the RNC is sending the message that it has no real confidence in NBC News as an institution and, after the CNBC debacle I can’t say I blame them.