GOP Candidates Reportedly Finalize Demands For Future Debates

This post has been updated.

The Republican presidential candidates have finalized a long list of demands and questions for networks hosting debates going forward, according to a copy of a letter obtain by the Washington Post.

In the letter, the candidates demanded that networks communicate with candidates directly (as opposed to the Republican National Committee) and that the networks hold a conference call with candidates about the debate format at least a month before the debate. The candidates would then be able to determine whether they wish to participate in the debate.

The campaigns demanded that the debates include 30-second opening and closing statements, and asked that the networks nix lightning rounds and submit graphics with biographical details about the candidates to the campaigns for approval. The candidates also asked that the moderators ask the same number of questions to each candidate and refrain from “gotcha” questions.

The letter obtained by the Post also includes a long list of questions the campaigns would need the networks to answer. The questions cover who the moderators are, how long the debate is, and who will qualify for the debate. They also list things that networks should not include like “candidate-to-candidate questioning,” “reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates,” and “behind shots of the candidates showing their notes.”

The campaigns also asked that the networks ensure that the debate venue remain at 67 degrees and offered suggestions for bathroom breaks during the debate.

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 presidential campaign, told TPM that most of the questions included in the letter are not atypical or outlandish. He described the demands as “pro forma part of a debate” and said that those points are typically negotiated ahead of time.

He offered a couple places in the letter where the campaigns are less realistic in their requests. Schmidt said that candidates may struggle to get an answer they find acceptable to the question, “Will you commit to provide equal time/an equal number of questions of equal quality (substance as opposed to “gotcha” or frivolous) to each candidate?”

“I think it’s a legitimate point. I’m not sure they’re going to get the answer they want,” Schmidt said.

And he said that the candidates’ demand that the moderators not “allow candidate-to-candidate questioning” is “probably the first thing there that’s not realistic.”

Representatives for the campaigns met on Sunday night to air grievances about previous debates and propose changes going forward. Numerous campaigns pushed for the candidates to work with the networks directly on the debates, rather than work through an RNC liaison.

Read the full text of the letter at the Washington Post.

Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Latest Livewire
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: