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Sparks fly as campaigns dump RNC, take control of debates

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Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee received a pink slip and a stinging rebuke from the candidates’ campaigns Sunday over its mishandling of the first three debates.

The campaigns decided that the RNC will no longer be in control of negotiations after a two-hour meeting at an Alexandria, Va. Hilton, Politico reported Sunday.

Priebus tried to stop the revolt by penning a stern letter to NBC and cancelling an upcoming partnership with Telemundo in February 2016, but it turned out to be too little too late. In the wake of the CNBC debate, which was widely seen as a debacle, pitting hostile, liberal moderators against the candidates, the campaigns had had enough.

Gail Gitcho, spokeswoman for Gov. Bobby Jindal and one of the meeting’s organizers, said she thought the meeting was productive, agreeing that “campaigns will now assume negotiation of format instead of the RNC.”

Some sparks flew between Jeb Bush’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns over the fate of the Telemundo debate.  Danny Diaz, Bush’s campaign manager, said he wanted the debate reinstated.

Trump’s manager Corey Lewandowski snapped in reply “We don’t want that,” according to a person present at the meeting. “We won’t go.”

Among the items the campaigns agreed to are a two-hour time limit, 30 second opening and closing statements, and some control over the graphics the networks are allowed to use during debates.  CNBC displayed a graphic during the last debate listing Bush’s past work as a financial consultant, while omitting his eight-year tenure as Florida governor.

The campaigns didn’t agree on how many candidates should be on stage at one time, with the lower-polling candidates pushing for inclusion on the main stage. Current frontrunner Ben Carson’s campaign also supported that, but the other top-polling campaigns did not agree.

The new arrangement, with the campaigns in control, will take effect after the next debate, which will be hosted by Fox Business on Nov. 10.

Fittingly, when the group wrapped up, Republican election attorney and power broker Ben Ginsberg tried to call Priebus to inform him of the decision—but instead of Priebus, he got the chairman’s voicemail.  Listening hasn’t been the RNC’s strongest suit.

Steve Berman


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