RNC meets to limit debates, set 2016 plans

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2014 file photo, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is seen at the RNC winter meeting in Washington.  Millionaires and billionaires are increasing their influence in federal elections, forcing the parties to play more limited roles, and raising questions about who sets the agenda in campaigns. In a handful of key Senate races, the biggest and loudest players so far are well-funded groups that don’t answer to any candidate or political party-such as the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Some veteran lawmakers worry about the clout of the Republican and Democratic parties, which have dominated U.S. politics since the Civil War. The recent Supreme Court ruling appears unlikely to reduce the role that outside groups are playing.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2014 file photo, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is seen at the RNC winter meeting in Washington. Millionaires and billionaires are increasing their influence in federal elections, forcing the parties to play more limited roles, and raising questions about who sets the agenda in campaigns. In a handful of key Senate races, the biggest and loudest players so far are well-funded groups that don’t answer to any candidate or political party-such as the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Some veteran lawmakers worry about the clout of the Republican and Democratic parties, which have dominated U.S. politics since the Civil War. The recent Supreme Court ruling appears unlikely to reduce the role that outside groups are playing. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican National Committee wants to take more control over how the party picks a nominee.

The RNC is meeting Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee, to choose members who will effectively set the calendar for 2016’s long list of potential presidential contenders. If party chairman Reince Priebus gets his way, the GOP will pick its nominee more quickly than during past contests and have fewer debates in which candidates could criticize each other.

The RNC is also set to put in place penalties for candidates who don’t follow the committee’s plans.

Senior Republican National Committee officials described the agenda ahead of the three-day meeting. The officials insisted on anonymity because the entire 168-member central party had not yet been briefed on the proposal.

The move is designed to shorten the volatile nomination period and lengthen the time the party’s choice has to make a case against the Democrats.

During the 2012 campaign, a proliferation of debates led to fatigue among campaigns and frustration among candidates. In all, 20 debates took place, but not all candidates participated in each.

For instance, various members of the field met for media-sponsored debates 13 times before Iowa had its leadoff caucuses in January 2012. They met on back-to-back days before New Hampshire cast its ballots a week later.

In 2016, the goal would be for six to 10 debates before February or March 2016.

Top RNC officials also have been interested in having greater control over the format and moderators of the debates. A frequent complaint inside the RNC headquarters is that the 2012 primary moderators were more interested in talking about differences among candidates than helping voters rally behind a favored candidate.

If the RNC gets its way, moderators would agree to keep debates focused on topics Priebus prefers and avoid intraparty squabbling.

A senior RNC official said the committee has spoken with every network about the proposal. This official, like others, insisted on anonymity without the authorization to speak by name.

The networks, aware of the potentially large audiences, have been open to the proposals, RNC officials said.

Candidates who participate in rogue debates would face penalties, which the RNC panel would determine. Those penalties have not been yet been finalized, officials said, but party officials were considering sanctions they believed would be severe enough to dissuade possible violators.

For instance, a candidate who campaigned in a state that ignored the RNC’s preferred calendar might win the state but be stripped of some or all of the convention delegates he or she won in that state. In a nominating race determined by who wins the most delegates, such a penalty could be problematic — and, perhaps, a deterrent for would-be scofflaws.

blog comments powered by Disqus