Republicans Vote to Boycott 2016 NBC and CNN Primary Debates
At their annual meeting, the Republican National Committee has made good on something they have been promising for a while. Via Fox News:
The Republican National Committee has voted to boycott any presidential primary debates planned by CNN and NBC if they proceed with lengthy television features on Hillary Clinton, widely expected to be a 2016 Democratic candidate.
With no audible dissent, GOP officials approved a resolution backing the position at their annual summer meeting in Boston on Friday.
The RNC claims that a Clinton-themed documentary and a separate miniseries — in the works from CNN and NBC, respectively — will put a “thumb on the scales” in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
The draft resolution, obtained by Fox News in advance and later voted on by RNC officials, calls on CNN and NBC to cancel what it describes as “political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”
And if they don’t, the resolution states, “the Republican National Committee will neither partner with these networks in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor.”
In the past, this sort of move would be unheard of. Of course, a lot in the media landscape has changed — even since the last election cycle. The ability for politicians to bypass traditional news organizations in order to get their message across has fundamentally disrupted the relationship between parties and the networks.
This is a smart symbolic move for the Republicans. It allows them to appear tough on the media while accomplishing a key strategic goal. We already knew that the party was desperately looking for ways to significantly cut the number of primary debates. In the 2012 cycle there were a total of twenty Republican Primary debates. Seven of the twenty were sponsored by CNN. Two were sponsored by NBC. So simply by cutting these two networks, the Republicans could cut their debate schedule in half.
Most likely the party plans to partner with Fox News for most of the debates that will air, ensuring that their candidates messages get out their target audience.
It remains to be seen if MSNBC, which sponsored two debates, or CNBC, which sponsored a single debate in 2012, are included in this ban.
The boycott no effect on the general election. The parties only control the primary debates. The Presidential debates are overseen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and, just like in past years, will most likely be simultaneously broadcast on all the major networks, including CBS and CNN.
[Update 8.18.2013 @ 10.33pm est] – Regular commenter Jenos Idanian #13 reminds us that there is some precedent for this. During the 2008 Democratic Primary all the major candidates boycotted a proposed debate to be hosted by Fox News.