Priebus: GOP is going to pick its own debate moderators

NEW ORLEANS -- Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday that his party will be more vigilant in 2016 about selecting debate moderators.

Speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference, Priebus name-checked MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and said the days of people like him hosting debates are over.

He also said the party needs to have fewer debates than in previous years.

“How many people here think we need 23 debates?” Priebus said. “Here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to take this 23-debate traveling circus, and we’re going to pick the moderators.”

Priebus previously threatened to withhold debates from CNN and NBC (MSNBC’s parent network) when they were planning projects based on Hillary Clinton. Both projects were later canceled.

In his speech, Priebus also urged his party to be more focused on the “mechanics” of political campaigns, pointing to Democrats’ efforts to register tens of thousands of voters in a swing state like Florida.

“That’s how they roll,” Priebus said. “And we have to get a national party in that same vein: obsessed with the mechanics.

"We can’t be a national party that shows up every four years, five months before an election."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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