GOP presidential campaigns meet, agree to modest demands for future debates

The Republican candidates who participated in the prime-time CNBC debate Wednesday.
(Image credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

For more than two hours on Sunday evening, representatives from most of the Republican presidential campaigns met in a conference room at a Hilton in suburban Washington, D.C., to discuss how they can seize more control over the presidential debates. The meeting was hosted by the Ben Carson campaign and moderated by longtime Republican lawyer and fixer Ben Ginsberg. Afterward, Ginsberg, who has experience negotiating debates, phoned the Republican National Committee's new point man for debates, Chief Operation Officer Sean Cairncross — named late Sunday, in a shakeup seen as trying to appease the campaigns — with an outline of the campaigns' proposed changes.

After looking over a draft written up by Ginsberg on Monday, the campaigns will collectively send their demands to the networks by Tuesday evening. Some of the candidates came in with pretty elaborate suggestions, but the consensus list appears to include a two-hour time limit, opening and closing statements of at least 30 seconds for each candidate, pre-approval of on-screen graphics during the debate, no lightning rounds, earlier deadlines for getting the candidates the rules and format of the debate, and equal speaking time, according to Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett. The networks don't have to abide by the demands, and some candidates said they might boycott the debates if the requests aren't honored.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.