Opinion writer

Republicans are pulling out of their only scheduled debate that would be aired on a Spanish-language TV network. So Democrats may respond by holding a second gathering aired on one.

The Spanish-language network Telemundo is in talks with the Democratic National Committee about possibly scheduling a new candidate forum with the Dem presidential candidates, after the Republican National Committee canceled its debate on NBC News and the NBC-owned Telemundo to protest CNBC’s handling of last week’s gathering, sources familiar with ongoing discussions tell me.

If this comes to fruition, Democrats would effectively be moving into the breach created by the RNC’s decision. It would mean Democrats end up holding two debate-style events on Spanish-language networks, since they are already set to hold a Univision debate in March.

Telemundo had already been in private talks with the DNC about holding a candidate forum, but in the wake of the GOP decision, those efforts will now be escalated, I’m told.

“Telemundo will intensify its ongoing discussions with the DNC about having some type of candidate forum in light of the RNC cancelling the only Spanish-language Republican debate that they had scheduled,” a source familiar with ongoing discussions between Telemundo and Democrats tells me.

If Telemundo does hold a candidate forum with Democrats, it would not be a DNC-sanctioned debate, but rather a forum similar to the one being held by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this Friday in South Carolina. Thus, ultimately Telemundo would set up such a gathering in direct talks with the Democratic campaigns. But the DNC would offer organizational support, and the DNC appears to be generally supportive of the idea and is giving some input already.

“If NBC and Telemundo host a forum for Democratic candidates we’d be happy to promote it, just as we have with others like the November 6th South Carolina forum with MSNBC,” Luis Miranda, the communications director for the DNC, tells me. “While we will not be sanctioning forums, we would be happy to help promote such events should they organize them.”

It’s obviously possible that this won’t come to anything. The Democratic campaigns may decide the logistics are too daunting or that they don’t want to take time out of their campaigning schedules for it, or it could fall through for other reasons.

But you’d think it would be a good idea for Democrats to try to make this happen. The RNC is claiming there will be another debate scheduled to replace the cancelled one on NBC and Telemundo. But RNC chair Reince Priebus has declined to say whether Telemundo would be included in the replacement debate. Obviously the RNC did not cancel this debate because of the Spanish-language network’s participation; it had many other reasons for doing so. But one consequence of this decision could be that Republicans end up holding no debate aired on a Spanish-language network. If Democrats do add a second such gathering, they would then be able to argue that they are far more interested in communicating with Latino voters than Republicans are, which is a good message for the general election.

Indeed, one of the GOP campaigns — that of Jeb Bush — is actually protesting the decision to cancel the NBC/Telemundo debate, and demanding that Telemundo be reinstated, presumably because Latino outreach would be good not just for Jeb Bush, but for the GOP overall. Guess which GOP candidate is opposing a reinstatement of Telemundo? Yep: Donald Trump. All this comes after GOP establishment types went into full-scale panic earlier this fall over the damage Trump — with his call for mass deportations and suggestion that Mexican immigrants are rapists — may already be doing to the GOP brand among Latinos. And it comes as incoming House Speaker Paul Ryan is renewing his pledge not to act on immigration reform while Obama is president.

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* FRUSTRATED GOP CAMPAIGNS TRY TO CHANGE DEBATE PROCESS: Last night representatives from the GOP presidential campaigns met to try to alter the debate process. The New York Times sums up their demands:

They emerged with a modest list of demands, including opening and closing statements of at least 30 seconds; “parity and integrity” on questions, meaning that all candidates would receive similarly substantive questions; no so-called lightning rounds; and approval of any graphics that are aired during the debate. The campaign representatives also moved to take the Republican National Committee out of the debate negotiating process.

One wonders what the GOP candidates mean by demanding questions with “integrity.” I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

* JEB WANTS SPANISH-LANGUAGE COVERAGE. TRUMP DOESN’T: The Post overview of the meeting also contains this striking little nugget:

Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz recommended that Telemundo be reinstated after being dropped along with NBC. But the campaign of businessman Donald Trump, represented by manager Corey Lewandowski, threatened to boycott a debate if the Spanish-language network that Trump has clashed with was granted one.

I suppose Donald Trump has very good reasons for wanting as few Latinos as possible to hear his ideas, but that’s not exactly good for GOP overall.

 * PAUL RYAN VOWS NOT TO REFORM IMMIGRATION: Incoming Speaker Paul Ryan this weekend went out of his way to reassure conservatives: Republicans will not enter into any bipartisan compromising with Obama on immigration reform. No sirree:

“Specifically on this issue, you cannot trust this president,” Ryan said on CNN, making reference to Obama’s executive orders last year granting some illegal immigrants a path to legal status: “This president tried to write the law himself. . . . Presidents don’t write laws; Congress writes laws.”

Shorter Paul Ryan: Conservatives won’t let me hold a vote on the immigration reforms I myself would like to see happen, and I’m not about to challenge that, so I’ll just go ahead and blame this on #Obummer.

 * DEMS HIT GOP OVER SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE: The Hillary Clinton-allied Super PAC Priorities USA is releasing a new Web video this morning featuring comments from Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio that suggest Republicans would target Social Security and Medicare. The video then cuts to Clinton ridiculing Jeb’s “Right to Rise” Super Pac, by saying: “I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a ‘right to rise,” and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care.”

It’s an indication that Dems will seek to make GOP designs on entitlements a key point of contrast for yet another cycle.

* ECONOMY DOES BETTER UNDER DEMS: Paul Krugman looks at all the evidence that the economy does better under Democrats, and explains why GOP candidates always promise that tax cuts for the rich will produce spectacular growth. If not, we’d have to pay for them by cutting government programs deeply:

How can a politician sell the tax-cut agenda? The answer is, by promising those miracles, by insisting that tax cuts on high incomes would both pay for themselves and produce wonderful economic gains….Republicans must sell an essentially unpopular agenda by confidently declaring that they have the ultimate recipe for prosperity — and hope that nobody points out their historically poor track record.

It’s of a piece with the deeply held Republican belief, on display in this cycle once again, that there’s too much downward redistribution of wealth. Of course, their resulting agenda of rolling back Obama’s redistributive policies has to be sold as good for those at the bottom and in the middle.

* REPUBLICANS ARE DEEPLY PESSIMISTIC: E.J. Dionne sits in on a focus group of New Hampshire Republicans as they watched the last GOP debate, and finds them deeply convinced that the country is being transformed, perhaps irrevocably, into something vaguely awful:

This is why there’s cheering on the right for the obstructionism of groups such as the House Freedom Caucus. Throwing sand in the gears of the machine is an honorable pursuit if you believe the machine is headed entirely in the wrong direction. It’s also why Trump and Carson will not be easily pushed aside.

Indeed. Threatening massive damage to the country to stop Obama (via debt limit showdowns, for instance) is justified, given what he’s already doing to it.

* QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND, DEEP-INSIDE-THE-GOP-PRIMARY-BUBBLE EDITION: Ted Cruz lays down conditions for the next GOP debate moderators:

“How about we stop letting left-wing liberals moderate Republican debates?” Cruz said. “How about if say from now on, if you have never voted in a Republican primary in your life, you don’t get moderate a Republican primary debate?”

Also, no more debate moderators who traffic in any facts that challenge the cherished mythologies of GOP primary voters, deal?