Republican campaigns agreed to take a larger role in negotiating the parameters of the upcoming presidential debates and largely cut the Republican National Committee out of the process during an unprecedented meeting of advisers for all but one campaign Sunday night.
It was a signal that efforts from the RNC to alleviate long-simmering frustrations from the campaigns over the debates, which came to a boil last week after the debate hosted by CNBC—a sister channel of NBC News and MSNBC—had fallen short.
On Sunday, the RNC told campaigns that it was appointing RNC Chief Operating Officer Sean Cairncross to assist with debate negotiations. On Friday, the committee announced that it would suspend the next debate hosted by NBC News and Telemundo over the way the CNBC debate played out, which campaigns have complained was poorly moderated and intended more to bruise the candidates than enlighten the voters.
Lindsey Graham's campaign manager, Christian Ferry, called dinner meeting of representatives of the Republican presidential campaigns "an extremely productive evening."
There is a starting point for the GOP operatives—"we agreed that we would like the campaigns to negotiate with the networks on format going forward," Ferry said, and "continue to have the RNC help with logistics."
According to Ben Carson's campaign manager. Barry Bennett, the campaigns all agreed to circulate a questionnaire to the networks hosting the debates asking for details on their planned formats, the moderators and how long the debates will go, among other details.
The campaigns will hold a conference call before each debate to hammer out the details on a case-by-case basis, during which, Bennett said, he expects other issues of contention—like whether to hold an undercard debate and how to get more candidates involved in the main debate—to be ironed out.