WASHINGTON — Newt Gingrich says the idea that the Republican National Committee should reduce the number of primary debates in 2016 is “a total waste of time.”
“I liked the debates,” the 2012 GOP presidential candidate acknowledged to reporters Thursday during a breakfast organized by the National Review.
Last month, a committee appointed by the RNC released a much-publicized report about what the party can do better to win elections. In it, committee members recommended that the RNC step in to better regulate the debates.
Throughout the campaign, conservatives complained that the debates took up too much of time and many of the questions were either pointless or biased.
But Gingrich — while saying he very much supports “the general direction” of the review — said he disagrees with the notion that there were too many debates during the 2012 primary. He pointed out that Republicans in 2012 only debated one time more than then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did during the 2008 Democratic primary.
“The point is to win the general election,” the former House Speaker said, arguing that the televised showdowns in the primary are important because they prepare the GOP nominee for the general election.
As for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Gingrich added: “I think he was probably strengthened by having debated.”
Gingrich said Republicans should shy away from thinking, “Gee, we’re going to have a candidate so stupid we have to protect him from hurting himself, therefore, let’s have the fewest possible debates so that when he arrives in the general election we can learn in the first debate how really dumb he really is.”
“This is the World Series of power,” he said, “the Super Bowl of power.”
But one change Gingrich would “absolutely” like to see? Different moderators.
Throughout the GOP primary, Gingrich was perhaps the best debater, skillfully using the appearances to gain support. He was also known for criticizing the moderators during the debates to the delight of the audience.
“I’d prefer a Lincoln-Douglas approach where the two candidates as each other questions,” he said. “This idea that we’re delegating power to randomly chosen reporters who decide what to ask the potential president of the United States, is wonderful if you’re a reporter, but it’s a fairly absurd idea if you think about it.”
RNC chairman Reince Priebus told The Daily Caller when the report was released that the party wants to explore the possibility of choosing who actually asks the questions during the debates.
“I think the party should have more control over who moderates, and we should have more control over the partners,” Priebus told TheDC. “And if we can come up with a mechanism to take more control over the debate processes, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Gingrich emphasized that he approves of most of the committee’s review and of Priebus’ job as chairman.
“Out of 99 pages, it’s a pretty good start. I mean, I think a lot of stuff he’s doing is courageous, is intelligent and will make an historic difference,” he said.
Asked if he would consider another run for president, Gingrich responded: “I don’t rule it out, but we’re not spending any energy on it.”
“My instinct is that there will be a new generation of ideas, and a new generation of candidates,” he said.