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.
Jeb Bush's campaign manager Danny Diaz suggested reinstating a debate hosted by Telemundo, but Donald Trump's reportedly threatened a boycott. There was also no agreement to the suggestion by several low-polling candidates to scrap the "undercard" debate and hold two debates with seven candidates each chosen randomly. But "the campaigns reached an early consensus on one issue, according to several operatives in the room: the secure standing of Fox News Channel," reports The Washington Post. "Any changes would be applied to debates after next week's Fox Business Network debate. Among the reasons, according to one operative in the room, was that 'people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad,' a reference to the network's chief."