GOP Campaigns Want a ‘Unifying Voice’ as They Spar With RNC Over Debates

1 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Billionaire Investor Paul Singer Backs Marco Rubio.

Ben Ginsberg, a top Republican lawyer who has long served as the lead presidential debate negotiator for his party, will attend a private meeting Sunday evening in Washington of Republican presidential campaigns hoping to overhaul the primary debate process. Before the Republican candidates had even walked off the CNBC debate stage in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday evening, their anger and frustration were pouring into public view, creating a crisis for the candidates, their party and the television networks hosting this year’s debates.

In a move that may be an early signal of a new establishment front-runner in the crowded Republican presidential field, billionaire investor Paul Singer has pledged his support to Florida Senator Marco Rubio.The Republican National Committee is suspending its participation in a scheduled February debate hosted by NBC News and Telemundo after complaints from GOP presidential campaigns about this week’s CNBC debate, RNC chairman Reince Priebus announced on Friday. “While debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates’ visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates,” Priebus said in a letter to NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andrew Lack. Ginsberg, who is not affiliated with a campaign, was invited to serve as a facilitator, helping to ensure a smooth, civil discussion, according to a Republican strategist familiar with the plans. Singer, the 71-year-old founder of hedge fund Elliott Associates, is not only one of the Republican party’s largest individual donors but is also regarded as especially influential among wealthy Republicans—the kind of campaign backer who can spur others to follow him.

On Wednesday night, Marco Rubio, the 44-year-old senator from Florida, was (by almost all accounts) the winner of the third Republican primary debate. Among the complaints Priebus cited: Insufficient focus on the debate’s theme of economic and financial issues, uneven screen time for candidates, and “inaccurate or downright offensive” questions. For in his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee, Rubio seeks to walk a hybrid path, that of the establishment outsider, in a party torn between the two camps. The move illustrated the party’s distrust of the mainstream media, its leading candidates’ preoccupation with rebelling against power, and the tactical wager that Republicans can outmaneuver television networks dependent on record-breaking ratings from this year’s debates.

We too often fail to make a clear, persuasive case for a conservative approach to addressing America’s problems and taking advantage of America’s opportunities. And just like that, everything changed: “The party of Boehner and Bush is now the party of Ryan & Rubio,” declared conservative opinion leader Bill Kristol on Twitter. The action by the party leadership seemed designed in part to redirect Republican anger away from the national committee, which many believe has bungled the debate process. Though an average of recent polls shows Rubio trailing only outsider candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson, third-quarter campaign fundraising numbers showed Rubio behind Carson, former Florida Gov.

During Wednesday’s debate, Mr Bush attacked Mr Rubio, his former Florida protégé, for missing votes in the senate – but the mentee would have none of it – unleashing a devastating counterattack, slapping Mr Bush down and dealing a harsh blow to his flailing campaign. Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon whose campaign has spearheaded the meeting, is calling for fewer debates – roughly one per month, with all of the candidates included on stage and more time for opening and closing statements. Against that backdrop, I want to explain why I believe getting behind Senator Rubio, at this moment, is so important. “In a clear, coherent, disciplined way – on the debate stage, on the stump, and in interviews – Senator Rubio has been turning his campaign into a compelling argument for using conservative ideas to help America adapt and thrive in the 21st century.” Campaigning in Iowa, Rubio said: “When people buy into us, they buy into our agenda, and I’m glad that he has and it’ll help us with resources. But the most important reason conservatives should be rooting for Mr Rubio to replace Mr Bush as the candidate who is acceptable to the establishment wing of the party is that he offers generational change.

Ten campaigns have signed on to the summit to take place this weekend, NBC News reported. “There is a unification around taking control of the debate in some format and taking it out of the hands of the network and the RNC,” an aide to one GOP campaign participating in the meeting told NBC News. “They got three strikes, they’re out.” “I just can’t tell you how pissed off I am,” Priebus said on Fox News on Thursday. On the agenda: forcing both the committee and the networks to address their concerns, including format (such as the debates’ length and whether candidates have opening statements) and airtime for each candidate. You might remember the stark contrast that occurred this past April, when Mr Rubio’s presidential announcement came the day after Hillary Clinton’s. “Just yesterday, we heard from a leader from yesterday who wants to take us back to yesterday, but I feel that this country has always been about tomorrow,” Mr Rubio declared.

He added he would “make sure that we can do everything possible to make sure last night doesn’t happen again.” The campaigns have each raised a number of different issues, some of which may be in conflict with each other, and the goal of the meeting will be to see if they can reach a consensus on their demands for the RNC and debate hosts moving forward. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who are lower in the polls and have been relegated to the undercard debates, are simply eager for a prime-time debate slot. Mr Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants who speaks fluent Spanish, and Mr Ryan, whose father died when he was sixteen and received Social Security survivors’ benefits until he was eighteen, share more than just a compelling story and a youthful appearance. One suggestion under consideration is holding two prime-time debates, of roughly 90 minutes each, with seven candidates – chosen randomly – in each.

Mr Ryan will be “a different kind of speaker [who is] devoted to public policy,” Cesar Conda, a former Rubio chief of staff who has been a friend to Mr Ryan for 25 years, told me this week. The committee was more actively involved in this year’s format and schedule after concerns that the 2012 cycle’s endless schedule of debates dragged the party down by fostering division and pushing the candidates into uncomfortable-issue territory.

In his third year as a freshman senator, he helped broker a deal that led to Senate passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which included a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants. Both men could use their leadership perches, not just to corral votes, but also to sell a conservative philosophy to a more diverse 21st century audience. Jeb Bush’s campaign manager Danny Diaz confronted CNBC producers mid-debate to complain that his candidate was not being called on enough. “I did communicate with CNBC displeasure about speaking time,” he told reporters in the spin room afterwards. While Rubio has complained about CNBC’s questions since Wednesday, there’s less motivation to rock the boat given that he was widely credited with winning the debate. “It’s kind of like going to the guys who won the Super Bowl and asking ‘Were you peeved at the refs?’ Eh, I’ll give them a pass,” top Rubio staffer Terry Sullivan told reporters Wednesday when asked about the various debate complaints. But it’s hard to look at this strong and diverse Republican bench, and not juxtapose it to the Democrats, whose party – now that Barack Obama is a lame duck – seems to be represented by a bunch of old white people, such as Hillary Clinton, 68, Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old democratic socialist candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, 72, Nancy Pelosi, 75, and Harry Reid, 75.

As the party has moved toward the conservative base, the candidates, by criticizing the press and debate moderators, have been able to score points with their core supporters while inoculating themselves from tough questions or criticism after a poor debate performance. It’s hard enough for any political party to win three consecutive elections (which is what Democrats will have to do), but add on top of that the notion that a political party and a nation should decide to go — as popular conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt told CNN — “backwards to the future, not forward to the future with a young, dynamic Republican.” To be sure, Mrs Clinton will attempt to generate excitement by virtue of possibly being the first female president. They also see those bodies as evidence of the impotence of the party’s leaders and their collective failure to enact and implement a conservative agenda. Donald Trump was the main antagonist in that case, ratcheting up his criticism in a CNN interview that moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever” when she asked him a tough question in the debate about his rhetoric toward women. He went on to preemptively predict mistreatment from CNN and CNBC ahead of each of those networks’ debates and on Wednesday complained about “not a very nicely asked question” from moderator John Harwood about whether his platform was a “comic book version” of a campaign.

On Friday, Trump hailed the RNC’s decision to suspend NBC News from the February debate, citing the CNBC event’s “lack of substance and respect” in a statement. There will be attempts to cast these young men as Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin, but the key difference, of course, is that, when it came to their ability to play on a national stage, then-Senator Quayle and then-Governor Palin were selected, not elected.

Candidates, especially those at the lower end of the polling spectrum, have also complained about being relegated into an undercard debate — popularly dubbed the “kids table” — and some of the higher polling contenders have taken their side. Marco Rubio, should he be the Republican nominee, will have the benefit of having spent years in the national spotlight, and having endured numerous primary debates. His political mentor, Republican presidential rival Jeb Bush, thought he could use that record of missed votes against Rubio in this past week’s debate in Colorado. For Democrats, who were hoping they would get to deal with old pols like John Boehner and Jeb Bush (or loose cannons like Donald Trump) the world just got a little bit scarier – just in time for Halloween. Matt K Lewis is a senior contributor at The Daily Caller website in Washington, DC and is author of the forthcoming book Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots).

Paul Ryan was elected speaker of the US House of Representatives on Thursday, bringing to a close the period of intense Congressional infighting that followed John Boehner’s sudden resignation last month. They see in Rubio a skilled politician whose biography and youth could provide a sharp contrast with Hillary Rodham Clinton, if she wins the Democratic nomination, and help expand the party’s appeal to Hispanic voters.

On Friday, Fox Business Network, which is hosting the next Republican debate in Wisconsin, released its rules for that event on Nov. 10; the candidates will not get an opening statement, but will have longer response time — 90 seconds for their initial answer, with a 60-second rebuttal. Mr Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin and Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012, assumed a role often called the second most powerful in Washington. But his ascension to the speakership comes with his own party embroiled in a civil war between its insurgent and establishment flanks, and with Congress continually reaching new depths of ineffectiveness and unpopularity. “Let’s be frank,” Mr Ryan said after Thursday’s vote on the floor of the Capitol. “The House is broken. We’re not solving problems, we’re adding to them.” Mr Ryan, who is just 45 and was often tipped as a future president, never sought the office of speaker, which typically marks the culmination of a long congressional career rather than a stepping stone to higher office. Perhaps the most widely respected figure in the Republican Party, his policy positions match with those of his party’s right-wing hardliners, but he has earned the respect of his more moderate colleagues by negotiating with Democrats on fiscal issues.

Now it’s likely that Rubio will find bundlers flocking to his campaign in bigger numbers, cementing his reputation as a favorite of the GOP’s moneyed elite. Realistically, there is time enough for those numbers to move, but in the hothouse media and political climate of this election, he’ll face pressure to show improvement quickly. In Iowa, he will bump up against Carson, Cruz, Trump and possibly the past two winners of the caucuses, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Substantively, he will draw attention in at least three broad areas — taxes and the economy; social issues; and foreign policy — that probably will become issues in a general election against the Democrats. On foreign policy, Rubio has schooled himself on the issues and has been among his party’s sharpest critics of the policies of the Obama administration.

But the comparisons with Obama — a young freshman senator with an aspirational message but no executive experience — will inevitably lead to an examination of whether he has the judgment, maturity, toughness and decisiveness to outmaneuver Russian President Vladimir Putin, develop an effective policy to combat the Islamic State, confront the Iranian regime and generally deal with the dangerous world the next president will inherit.

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