The chief strategist for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign is blowing the whistle on the decision by the Republican National Committee and CNBC to hide the entry criteria for the GOP’s next televised primary debate.
“For the next debate, you’ll notice the criteria has not been laid out yet,” Curt Anderson, Jindal’s chief strategist, told Breitbart News. The secrecy might be designed to hurt Jindal and to help more establishment-centric GOP candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, he said.
There’s all sorts of theories on what the criteria will be. You have the RNC who famously said during the Fox debate that they’re not legally allowed to be involved now saying that they’re working with CNBC on the criteria. What does that mean? I don’t know. I kind of smell a rat here though.
Anderson, the former political director at the RNC in the late 1990s, said he suspects the RNC is improperly, on the donor class’ behalf, getting involved in the primaries to eliminate disfavored candidates from debates.
At this time, two GOP candidates—Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry—have dropped out. Even with their departure, 15 candidates remain in the race—and it’s causing a headache for RNC chairman Reince Priebus and his senior strategist Sean Spicer.
Spicer hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment from Breitbart News. But he was in similar situation before CNN’s debate in Simi Valley, Calif, when the criteria seemed to exclude former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
The original criteria released by CNN and the RNC earlier in the year would have excluded Fiorina from the CNN debate’s main stage at the Reagan Library, despite a surge after she won the undercard debate in early August hosted by Fox News in Cleveland, Ohio.
The RNC, after Fiorina’s campaign publicly protested and sparked grassroots protest, intervened and worked with CNN to alter the criteria to get Fiorina on the main stage in Simi Valley.
Priebus, in an interview with Breitbart News, insisted that the RNC was involved in changing the criteria before Fiorina’s campaign went public. But Spicer had been originally quoted in Politico defending the original criteria in a way that Politico characterized as “tough luck” for Fiorina. Nonetheless, Fiorina obviously shined in the CNN debate as well and is now one of the three non-politicians leading the polls.
Spicer finds himself in yet another difficult spot after the undercard at the Reagan Library where Jindal outperformed his competitors—and has seen increased interest in his campaign since then.
It’s unclear where things will go from here, but he’s not helped by the RNC’s and CNBC’s decision to withhold the criteria for making the main debate stage at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
But the RNC has shown it can fix problems here—and that ultimately the final decision rests with them, not with the host networks.
That’s why Jindal’s team is clearly making a play to ensure he’s on the main stage.
The voters should decide who should be in the race and who shouldn’t, Anderson told Breitbart News, instead of the RNC and liberal network executives “screwing around with democracy.”
“People who run real campaigns should be allowed to debate, and the national party shouldn’t be in the business of making the choice of who the nominee is,” Anderson said.
It’s just all disingenuous. I do think this—I think there’s a bit of a chance for a conservative revolt at the national party level over this whole thing, because the truth is this: If you keep people off the debate stage, you’re hurting them. You’re hurting their ability to win. Why the national party thinks it’s their role to do that, I have no idea.
If the RNC continues down the pathway it is currently on, Anderson continued, the “revolt” by conservative voters may ensnare people like Priebus, Spicer, and the RNC brass.
“Who are the top vote getters in the polls right now? People who have never been in office before,” Anderson said. “So there is clearly a big conservative, anti-establishment vote out there. And I think to the extent they decide the RNC is part of the problem, that’s going to be bad for them [the RNC].”
Ultimately, Anderson suspects the RNC is trying to clear the field down to a few candidates—and eventually to a Trump versus Bush showdown.
“I spend a lot of time talking to donors, and the big donors in the party, they want a small field,” Anderson said.
They’re at odds, I think, with the voters by the way who are [thinking] like ‘I want to look at all these candidates and evaluate them.’ What the [donors] really want, I think, boils down to Jeb versus Trump, because they like Jeb and have invested in him and think they can get rid of Trump if they get all this riff-raff [candidates] out of the way. My attitude is: Who asked you? I don’t care what they want, and I think they’re having too big of an impact on this whole thing.
“Yeah,” Anderson replied when asked if the donor class feels like they can beat Trump.
And probably would. Not certainly. My beat on Trump is, if the guy were a real conservative, it would be over. He would blow this thing out. But the problem is he’s not. Every act gets old and I think that’s starting to happen. He’s not going to collapse but I think he’s going to trend downward. His Achilles heel is while conservatives want an outsider, they also want someone who believes what they believe. And he does on some hot button issues like immigration but then you start getting beyond it and he’s all over the place and he’s beyond his knowledge base and it’s like oh boy.
But all the RNC maneuvering to assert more control after a rough 2012 GOP presidential primary, Anderson believes, has “backfired” on Spicer and Priebus.
“They’ve kind of been hoisted on their own petard,” Anderson said, adding that it’s “backfired” on the RNC and donor class.
“They thought it was this clever way to protect the next Mitt Romney and it hasn’t worked that way,” Anderson said. “It’s actually ended up protecting Trump, which I think is kind of a delicious irony, by the way, but it’s almost like Plan B now is to shrink the field as fast as they can so they can get a one-on-one race with Trump versus Jeb.”
Anderson said it’s incumbent upon the RNC to ensure a fair process and make it clear that Jindal will be on the main stage in the next debate.
“The question is why doesn’t the party say, ‘look, there’s people running real campaigns, why can’t we get the voters to hear them?’” Anderson said. “If that happens, I guarantee you that Bobby will do real well in that debate. But the question is does he get the chance?”