Reince Priebus Admits That Newt Gingrich Was Basically Right About Debates

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 22 2013 3:10 PM

Reince Priebus Admits That Newt Gingrich Was Basically Right About Debates

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the National Press Club March 18, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

At a small roundtable with reporters today (more about this in a forthcoming piece), RNC Chairman Reince Priebus politely walked through the procedural changes that the GOP wants to make to its next primary. Ron Paul fans loudly protested the rules changes that made it through at the 2012 convention, which bound delegates more closely to the results of primaries—depriving Paulians of the chance to show up at local caucuses or conventions and scoop of delegates. But Priebus was foursquare behind those changes, fretful of future time-wasters like a candidate winning the Wisconsin primary then having to return with "signs and whips" to hold the delegates.

Also: The party needed to cut back on debates.

"We didn't lose because we didn't have 50 debates," said Priebus. "I'm talking about having a reasonable number of debates where we can have a greater say in who the moderators are, because we've got moderators who are in the business of making news, at [our] expense. I think we're committing malpractice when we have no control over who these moderators are and the formats of these primary debates. I'm sure the grassroots would appreciate that."

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National Review's Katrina Trinko asked Priebus whether some non-journalist, outside-the-box figures might be tapped to moderate.

"I haven't figured out all the concepts," he said. "I've certainly talked about non-news figures involved in the debates, even having, potentially, grassroots-type debates, having Lincoln-Douglas type debates, even having traditional news as well." The key was something that "protects our primary process, which should involve the Republican party." Hey, Gingrich proved that the media would show up to the Lincoln-Douglas debate.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.