Several 2016 GOP presidential campaigns are now revolting, not just against the Republican National Committee (RNC) controlling the debate process, but against controversial GOP establishment lawyer Ben Ginsberg’s efforts to insert himself into the process.
Aides to four top campaigns—those of billionaire Donald Trump, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich—have all confirmed they will not sign onto a letter organized by Ginsberg after the GOP presidential campaigns all broke from the RNC on Sunday night.
“Our campaign chose not to attend your closed door meeting last night. We had dinner at the Applebee’s in Pella, Iowa instead,” Fiorina deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores wrote in response to an email from Ginsberg requesting campaigns to sign onto his letter to the networks about debate demands. She wrote:
These debates are an important chance for voters to see conservative candidates under pressure and over time. We have consistently and successfully discussed our concerns with the networks and the voters–and not behind closed doors like the political class seems to like to do. We encourage each of the campaigns addressed here to do the same. As we have expressed publicly, we encourage the RNC to sanction conservative networks such as the Blaze and One America News to host and moderate a debate. We do not care whether it’s 67 degrees or our green room isn’t as plush as another candidate. Team Carly will not be signing this letter.
Ginsberg’s email, which included as an attachment a draft of the letter, read as follows: “Greetings — based on all of your comments last night, here is a revised letter to send to future debate sponsors. There are additions to what you received last night. Thoughts/edits/approvals welcomed. You all indicated last night that the letter should be sent no later than Tuesday.”
Fiorina is hardly the only candidate whose campaign is not playing Ginsberg’s game.
Christie spokeswoman Samantha Smith confirmed to Breitbart News on Monday morning that the governor’s campaign is “not planning on signing” and pointed to Christie’s comments on the process that’s unfolded in the last couple of days on Fox News. “Stop complaining. Do me a favor, set up a stage, put podiums up there and let’s just go. Ok?” Christie implored his fellow candidates.
Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf also confirmed to Breitbart News that the Ohio Governor’s presidential effort won’t sign on to Ginsberg’s letter either.
“We are declining to sign the letter,” Schrimpf said. “We’re happy the group decided to agree with us to not alter the FOX debate, but as the governor of Ohio, he is used to answering tough questions all the time.”
For different reasons, as Breitbart News has already reported, Trump’s campaign won’t be on the letter either.
“As we have for the previous three debates, the Trump Campaign will continue to negotiate directly with the host network to establish debate criteria that will determine Mr. Trump’s participation. This is no different than the process that occurred prior to the Fox, CNN, and CNBC debates,” a Trump campaign spokesperson said in a statement.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the New York Times later that his boss will work directly with the networks.
“I haven’t even looked at the letter,” Lewandowski said.
Lewandowski previously told Breitbart News on Sunday evening that the campaigns had agreed on five separate points in the meeting they had at the Hilton in Alexandria, Virginia, on Old Town’s King Street.
The “biggest consensus,” Lewandowski said, was that the campaigns had agreed to cut the RNC out of the process. They also agreed they want information from networks sooner, that they want “greater parity and greater integrity” in questions, that they want debates to last no longer than two hours—including commercials—and that they want each candidate to get at least 30 seconds apiece for opening and for closing statements.
A campaign manager with another campaign, who wished not to be identified, also confirmed on Sunday to Breitbart News that the RNC will no longer be handling debate format—that the “campaigns will take the lead” on that—but that the RNC will still handle basic logistics, though.
As such, even with the brewing revolt against Ginsberg, it’s unlikely the RNC will be back in on the formatting process. So that may bring things on the debate front to a grinding halt in the coming days.
The candidates will still debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a week from Tuesday on Fox Business Network, but what happens after that remains unclear.
Ginsberg’s efforts in previous cycles—particularly 2012, on then GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s behalf—to change longstanding RNC rules to benefit the Washington establishment have come under serious criticism in recent years, including in the past few days.