Three More Republican Candidates Drop Out Of Group Effort To “Fix” Debates
The effort to forge some kind of consensus independent of the RNC among the Republican candidates for President regarding debates appears to have failed. To the surprise of nobody who has been paying attention.
The effort by Republican candidates to make an end run around the Republican National Committee to make an end run around the Republican National Committee and “take control” of future Presidential debates appears to be falling apart. The first blow, of course, was driven late yesterday afternoon when it was reported that Donald Trump’s campaign would not sign on to the joint letter that was supposedly the summary of what campaigns had agreed to in their meeting in Northern Virginia on Sunday evening. In short other, three other campaigns announced that they would not go along as well:
After Donald Trump’s campaign on Monday rejected the letter to be sent to networks by his fellow Republican presidential candidates with demands for upcoming debates, a few additional Republican campaigns followed suit in declining to sign the letter.
The campaigns for Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters that they are not as concerned about the debates as their fellow candidates.
“We are declining to sign the letter. We’re happy the group decided to agree with us not alter the Fox debate. As the governor of Ohio we are used to answering tough questions all the time,” Kasich spokesperson Chris Schrimpf told Politico.
The Christie campaign also confirmed to Politico and CNN that the New Jersey governor would not be signing onto the letter, citing comments Christie made on Monday morning that the Republican candidates should “stop complaining.”
Fiorina’s campaign emailed Ben Ginsberg, the Republican consultant who drafted the letter, to say that the candidate would not be signing on.
“As we have expressed publicly, we encourage the RNC to sanction conservative networks such as the Blaze and One America News to host and moderate a debate. We do not care whether it’s 67 degrees or our green room isn’t as plush as another candidate. Team Carly will not be signing this letter,” Fiorina spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores wrote in the email, according to Politico,.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see other candidates distancing themselves from the joint letter at this point, since whatever negotiating power the group may have had coming out of Sunday’s meeting was pretty much destroyed the minute the campaign of one of the two men at the top of the field said that it would not participate in the effort despite having attended the meeting. With Trump out and apparently willing to negotiate with the networks by himself, the effort already was in danger of looking weak in any effort to try to dictate terms to the networks and debate organizers. With three more candidates pulling out of the process, the effort now has even less credibility than it did at this point yesterday morning and it’s likely that we’ll see whatever agreement has been reached among the remaining campaigns fall apart as their competing interests regarding what debates should look like and be about start overwhelming whatever they might agree on and more campaigns decide to strike out on their own. To be honest, of course, there was very little chance that this effort would succeed except perhaps in the most minimal respect to begin with, but now even that seems unlikely.
If things proceed as I expected, what that means is that the candidates will be back with the debate schedule and format that the Republican National Committee has been in charge of since the summer, with the next debate set to take place a week from today. The RNC has take some actions in response to the concerns raised by the campaign and the complaints after last week’s CNBC debate, though. The most prominent move, of course, was RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s decision to suspend the party’s cooperation with NBC News with regard to the February 26th debate that was originally intended to run both on the network and its Spanish language subsidiary Telemundo. In addition, in advance of Sunday’s meeting Priebus made some personnel changes in connection with the parties at the RNC responsible for handling debate logistics and negotiation. Whether that will be enough to quiet the candidate’s concerns remains to be seen, but in the end it seems clear that they will have to largely accept the RNC’s role in the process since there needs to be some voice that speaks at least somewhat for all of the campaigns as a whole. We will, perhaps, see some changes regarding debate format going forward. As I’ve noted before, though, the content of the debates themselves in terms of delivering something that can allow voters to get a look at the candidates in a way that actually allows them to get information they can base a voting decision on will not change until the field is winnowed. Since that doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon, I wouldn’t expect any real change to the circus that these debates have been so far.