Priebus Insists RNC Still Has Control Over Debates After Candidate Confab

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the Republican Party of Arkansas' Victory 365 center in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Aug.19, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday morning said that the committee still has control over the Republican presidential debate process despite reports that the Republican campaigns want to reduce the RNC’s role.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” co-host George Stephanopoulos asked Priebus if the RNC was losing control over the debates, citing the candidates’ Sunday meeting to propose changes to the debate formats.

“Well, there’s 14 campaigns, and so it takes a few people to create a narrative. But no, the truth is we’re involved, we’re in control, we’re setting the calendar,” he replied. “In fact, if what happens from last night goes forward, I think it’s exactly where we want to be.”

Stephanopoulos asked if the RNC expects candidates to propose changes other than demands for opening and closing statements, equal number of questions for candidates, and approval of graphics.

In response, Priebus said that the RNC won’t make changes to the debate contracts or schedules going forward.

“The ability to sanction or de-sanction a debate is with the RNC. And the candidates want that to be with the RNC because we’ve got the leverage to make that happen,” he said.

He said that he will communicate with the campaigns and “fight for what the candidates want” when they reach a consensus.

“When we started this process, we only wanted to do a few things: One, we wanted to set a reasonable calendar. We didn’t want 23 debates,” Priebus added. “We wanted some say over who the moderators were. And we did all that.”

On Sunday evening, representatives from numerous Republican campaigns met to discuss changes to the debates going forward. The campaigns may demand that they work with networks directly on the format, rather than through the RNC. And the candidates plan on sending a letter to the RNC with a list of questions and proposals this week.

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