A day after the two leading Presidential candidates in the GOP field sent a letter threatening a boycott of the next Republican debate, CNBC has apparently acquiesced to their demands and will shorten the time of the event. On Friday morning, GOP frontrunner and screaming kid in the backseat Donald Trump tweeted out that the network had agreed to slice an hour from the October 28th debate. Originally, the network had informed candidates that the event would run for three hours.
.@CNBC has just agreed that the debate will be TWO HOURS. Fantastic news for all, especially the millions of people who will be watching!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2015
CNN later confirmed through sources that the Republican National Committee had already informed individual campaigns that the debate would only run for two hours, including commercials. It isn’t clear yet if another demand was met from the Trump and Ben Carson camps, which was the inclusion of opening and closing statements. This was actually something other campaigns insisted on as well during a conference call with the network on Thursday, likely because it provides guaranteed uninterrupted time to address the audience.
CNBC has yet to comment on the changes, but the statement they released on Thursday after Trump’s bitchfest would indicate that they were totally going to fold and allow him and others to get their way. Trump and Carson are stating that three hours is too long, and the network only wants to do that to sell more commercials. (A reasonable argument, actually.) They cite the latest Democratic debate, which ran for a little more than two hours, as a better example of how theirs should be.
Of course, the Dems only had five candidates up on stage, meaning even the ones at the bottom — Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee — would get ample time to speak in a two-plus hour format. If the CNBC debate is shortened to two hours, including commercials, and each candidate gets an opening and closing statement, then the actual time for debate will be maybe 90 minutes. With at least ten candidates on that stage, it means there will be precious little time for some of the bottom tier candidates to speak. Also, less time will be spent on in-depth policy questions.
And this is the real reason why Trump and Carson want the format to be changed this way. In the last GOP debate, Trump looked foolish numerous times, especially when attacked by Carly Fiorina, and he eventually went quiet towards the end, looking tired and exhausted. He mostly just wants a chance to get off some zingers in a couple moments while not having the event drag on with others getting more of a chance to speak. While he wants to remain the dominant figure, he wants it in a condensed time, where he can essentially control the conversation and what he will or won’t answer.
The same thing goes for Carson. The good doctor has looked borderline incompetent during both debates. Of course, it has only helped raise his stature as he is now firmly in second place in GOP polls. However, another lengthy debate, along with his near frontrunner status, will mean he will be forced to answer a lot of questions and be addressed far more often than he wants. Cutting the event down and giving him a couple of scripted statements lessens his chances for serious damage.
Finally, the Republicans saw how well the Democratic debate went and how it exposed the childishness and immaturity of the Republican primary. The hope is that with a shorter time limit the party can prevent more unforced errors to erupt and become fodder for their opponents. Of course, with Trump, Carson and Ted Cruz in the mix, the chances of that are nil, regardless of the time limit.