So why is Rand Paul sticking up for NBC and CNN? The Republican National Committee is threatening to boycott those two networks over the production of presumed hagiographies of Hillary Clinton. Why is Rand Paul standing up for liberal-leaning organizations who are boosters of Clinton? The reason is that Paul understands that the RNC’s attempt to control the debates poses dangers to potential Republican contenders who are not popular within the Republican establishment.

As Business Insider pointed out, The RNC’s banning of NBC and CNN is a power grab within the party disguised as an attack on liberal journalists. Byron York wrote that the RNC has given itself the power to “penalize candidates who buck the debate schedule”.  It looks like the RNC is trying to influence the structure of the debates. That seems natural enough. The RNC would seem to be a better fit to organize the debates than liberal journalists.

The issue is that the RNC has its own agenda and this agenda is not entirely the party’s. The RNC has been trying to shape the debate since Romney’s defeat. The RNC’s election “autopsy” emphasized the need for “comprehensive immigration reform” as a needed measure to win over Hispanics and make the Republican party look inclusive. The report chose not to mention that the 2012 exit poll found that 53% of the voters thought that Romney’s policies would primarily benefit the rich. The RNC only suggested one policy change, and that was to bring the policy prescriptions of the Republican party even closer to those of the Chamber of Commerce - in the name of inclusion of course. The RNC did not suggest how the Republican party could change the policy mix to become more middle-class-friendly.  As the autopsy told us, the Republican National Committee does not make policy recommendations - except for when it does.

The RNC wanted to shape the conversation. That is to be expected (even if I don’t share their priorities), but with many in the Republican establishment already rallying to Chris Christie, I can see why Rand Paul might be leery of having the Republican establishment shape the Republican debates.

Articles by Pete Spiliakos

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