In two letters released Monday, the Republican National Committee threatened not to partner with NBC and CNN for the 2016 Republican primary debates if the networks go through with their respective plans to air a miniseries and a documentary about Hillary Clinton.
Here's an excerpt of the letter RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wrote to NBC.
As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice. But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions, which appear to be a major network’s thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election… Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company’s reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production. If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.
Seems straightforward enough: Major networks air purportedly pro-Hillary material, so the GOP seeks out other outlets for its primary coverage. Not so, as Time explains. The GOP is actually aiming to have fewer primary debates in 2016, because party leaders believe having 20 debates hurt their party and Mitt Romney.
Arguably, Mitt Romney would have hurt the party and his campaign even if there had been just 10-12 primary debates, which is what the GOP is aiming for in 2016 — $10,000 bet, anyone?
Reforming the primary debate process has been a central component of the RNC’s 2012 autopsy, with party officials trying to restrict the number of debates and screen out unfriendly debate moderators. But the effort to cut back on the number of debates has run into headwinds from Republican state parties in early states, who in many instances see revenue from co-hosting the debates and associated events. The autopsy recommends changing the RNC rules to include penalties for Republican state parties or candidates if they participate in debates unsanctioned by the RNC.
So far, the proposed penalties haven't caught on, but Priebus' letter could be the impetus necessary to ensure candidates don't participate in unauthorized events. Meaning there are likely to be fewer debates in 2016. We're already mourning the potential loss of up to half the gaffe-laden events that were so, so (sadly) entertaining in 2012.