Members of the Republican National Committee will start debating new rules — and potential penalties – they hope will give the party more control over the 2016 GOP primary debates during its annual spring meeting in Memphis this week.
RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the committee will begin building the infrastructure of a standing committee on debates while also discussing the issue of penalties. The committee, meeting at the Peabody Hotel, could plausibly penalize candidates who participate in non-sanctioned debates.
“All this springs from a fundamental belief that hey, the Republican nominee ought to be chosen by the Republican Party,” RNC Chief of Staff Mike Shields told reporters before the meeting started this week. “And we actually ought to say how in how that nominating process goes and how the debates go.”
“What shape that takes is still being worked out,” he added.
This all stems from the RNC’s autopsy report after the 2012 election. The 100-page report said the party can better serve its candidates by stepping in to regulate these televised showdowns in 2016. Some Republicans complained of too many debates with moderators asking unfair questions that ultimately weakened the eventual nominee.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told The Daily Caller last year when the report was released that the party not only wants to reduce the number of debates, but also 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.”
Speaking with reporters Monday, Shields said he doesn’t know specifically what the committee will recommend in terms of choosing debate moderators.
“I don’t know the answer to that right now,” he said, “but I certainly believe that when you’re taking control of your own debates, what that means is you are eliminating people who are trying to depose your candidates who clearly are from the other party and have no interest in helping your primary voters vote on the things they care about but are asking questions that help the other side.”
The theme of the RNC’s annual spring meeting in Memphis, taking place Wednesday through Friday, is its rebranded Victory 365 Program. Committee staff plan to highlight the RNC’s year-round field, data and digital effort.