This post has been updated.
Trump: A source for change?
The real estate magnate Donald Trump appears to have forced the hand of CNBC, the host of the next Republican primary debate—several news outlets are reporting that the televised event will only last two hours, including commercial breaks as well as opening and closing statements from each candidate.
A CNBC spokesman indicates that the terms of the debate are still being worked out, noting “we will certainly take the candidates’ views on the format into consideration as we finalize the debate structure.”
But Trump, the GOP frontrunner, has already taken to Twitter today (Oct. 16) to trumpet what he sees as a done deal.
CNBC had been pushing for a longer debate, with prepared statements scrapped to leave time for more questions. Trumped complained, and accused the network of pushing Republicans around to bring in more ad dollars by asking the GOP candidates to do more than was required of the five Democrats in their “just-aired and very boring” debate this week on CNN. (The Republicans’ previous debate, on Fox News, ran for three hours and featured 11 candidates.)
The Republican campaigns had an opportunity to air their candidates’ grievances on a conference call hosted yesterday (Oct. 15) by the Republican National Convention and CNBC. According to Politico’s account of the call, a strategist for Ted Cruz said the Texas senator would consider dropping out of the debate if there were no opening and closing statements; a strategist for Kentucky senator Rand Paul used an expletive to describe what CNBC could do to themselves if they did not agree to allow the statements. And representatives from Trump’s campaign and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s campaign wrote a joint letter to the network saying their candidates would not participate in the debate unless changes were made.
CNBC says its practice “in the past has been to forego opening statements to allow more time to address the critical issues that matter most to the American people.”
Not everyone was thrilled about the prospects of this changing. Carly Fiorina said in an interview on Fox News, “For heaven sakes, we have 10 candidates on stage. I don’t think three hours is a long time.”
(Updated Oct. 16 at 1:50pm EST with comments from CNBC.)