The Republican National Committee is taking steps to reestablish control over its nominating process in order to field a more viable presidential candidate in the 2016 election.
On Friday, members of the committee approved a measure that would penalize any candidate who participated in a debate not officially sanctioned by the party. Any candidate who did so would be barred from participating in the officially sanctioned debates.
Chairman Reince Priebus said that the reason behind the change was that in the 2012 primary debates, the mainstream media controlled both the topics addressed during the debates and the manner in which they were addressed. “The liberal media doesn’t deserve to be in the driver’s seat,” he said.
Fear of a Tea Party insurgency within the party may be behind these and other changes — the committee also moved the first four primaries to February and the others to March, allowing the them to host the convention in June. Moving these events forward would make it more difficult for underfunded Tea Party candidates to survive, because they would not benefit from months of free advertising leading up to the primaries.
A conservative committee member from Virginia, Morton Blackwell, asked “[d]o we want a committee of the national committee, which will surely be controlled by the national chairman, picking which candidates participate in all Republican presidential debates?”
Establishment Republicans like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from Virginia would prefer to see such control. At a GOP fundraiser on Saturday night, he was booed by supporters of his Tea Party opponent in the June primary, David Brat.
“When I sit here and I listen to Mr. Brat speak I hear the inaccuracies — my family’s here,” Cantor said, interrupting himself after the crowd became unruly. “That’s enough — we are a country of free speech, so decency’s also part of this.”
“It is easy to sit in the rarified environs of academia, in the ivory towers of a college campus with no accountability and no consequence. When you throw stones,” he continued, “you throw stones at all of us who are working every day to make a difference.”
Cantor’s evident annoyance at both his Tea Party challenger and Brat’s supporters betrayed an insecurity that not even his $2,000,000 to $90,000 fundraising advantage can assuage, which may be why his campaign has gone to such lengths to portray Brat as a “liberal college professor” whose only political experience is advising former Democratic governor Tim Kaine as part of the Virginia’s Advisory Board of Economists.