Republican Candidates Unite In Anger Over Debate on CNBC

1 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chris Christie Mocks GOP Rivals’ CNBC Debate Complaints.

DES MOINES, Iowa — New Jersey Gov. 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.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.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.

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.

Ginsberg, who is not currently 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. Meanwhile, several of the campaigns have decided to meet separately on Sunday to discuss how to revise the debate structure, with party representatives excluded.

Christie said he thinks the RNC has done a “fine” job of negotiating — and that he would show up to whatever debates are on tap, no matter which network they’re on. “Any debate they put on, I’ll show up because I’m going to do just fine. The patriarch once sent me a funny satire referring to himself and Barbara as the Old King and Queen, W. as King George of Crawford and Jeb as the Earl of Tallahassee.

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. The New Jersey governor has remained mired in the single digits in most GOP primary polls and was the subject of a recent New York Times op-ed calling on him to drop out of the presidential race. Individual campaigns have also raised issues with the length and number of the debates as well as their format, particularly regarding opening and closing statements. 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. One suggestion under consideration is holding two prime-time debates, of roughly 90-minutes each, with seven candidates — chosen randomly — in each.

The RNC is struggling to handle what may be an impossible task — managing a gigantic presidential field that began with 17 candidates and has since shrunk to 14 debate participants. As Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer recently wrote in The Times, Poppy and Bush retainers like John Sununu are bewildered by a conservative electorate that rejects Republican primogeniture, prefers snark to substance and embraces an extremely weird brain surgeon and an extravagantly wild reality show star.

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. In that cycle, the schedule was perceived as ultimately harming Mitt Romney, the party’s eventual nominee, by prolonging a fight in which, on the debate stage, he tried to make a $10,000 bet and favored “self-deportation” as a solution to illegal immigration. 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. Trump has gotten into Jeb’s head, making Jeb so petulant he declared he had “a lot of really cool things” he could be doing instead, when we all know he doesn’t.

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. Rubio knows that identification with the Senate is toxic to many of the Republican voters who will have a significant influence on who becomes the party’s nominee. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. “Debates are a crucial part of the democratic process, and we should have leverage with the networks, which isn’t afforded to us by the central planning.” Of course, attacking the media, especially the so-called liberal media, is a popular and time-tested Republican trope.

And when I talked to Jeb, he seemed annoyed that his older brother had jumped into the race in Texas because it turned it into “a People magazine story.” But W. had spent his rowdy 20s and 30s living with the unpleasant fact that even though he was the oldest, his parents assumed Jeb had the bright political future. 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. 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. 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. When Jeb said, “I am running for governor not because I am George and Barbara Bush’s son; I am running because I am George P. and Noelle and Jeb’s father,” W. began saying: “I am not running for governor because I am George Bush’s son.

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. With the RNC’s encouragement, CNN tweaked requirements to ensure Carly Fiorina made the second debate’s main stage after she and even some of her rivals argued their criteria was discounting her improvement in the polls.

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.

Even though the brothers are not particularly close, and W.’s tragic overinvolvement in the Middle East and tragic underinvolvement in Katrina did not make him a campaign asset, somehow Jeb kept wrapping himself around W.’s axle — and his Axis of Evil. Then he said he wouldn’t rule out torture and thought getting rid of Saddam was “a pretty good deal.” And he couldn’t stop bragging about how his brother kept America safe, even though Trump correctly noted that W. was not on the ball leading up to 9/11.

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. When he came out, a TMZ camera captured him jovially signing autographs for people waiting on the street and calling out as he drove away, “Don’t put that on eBay.” On Friday morning, the chatterers were comparing the stiff Jeb to the loosey-goosey W., gushing with the mistaken cliché that W. is comfortable in his own skin. Some Jeb! campaign officials think he should “kiss off Iowa,” as one put it, where he’s flatlining, and put the emphasis on New Hampshire, setting the stage for South Carolina. “That’s what 41 did when Bob Dole was winning Iowa,” said one family friend. 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.

Before the debate debacle, the joyless candidate had been doubling down on his promise to be joyful, proclaiming on NewsmaxTV, “I’m having a blast” and “I’m in phenomenal shape for an old 62-year-old guy. 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. In fact, I think we ought to have five-hour debates.” But this campaign has been defined by Trump parachuting in, like an Elvis impersonator in Vegas, and disrupting the royal coronation. 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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