The Republican National Committee announced Friday plans to sanction nine GOP primary debates, with the possibility of adding three more if necessary, the latest effort by party leaders to gain more control over how their 2016 presidential nominee is chosen.
CNN will host up to three of these events with the first one taking place Sept. 16 in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The other two CNN-hosted debates will take place in Las Vegas in December, and a yet-to-be-decided state in March, if necessary.
“By constructing and instituting a sound debate process, it will allow candidates to bring their ideas and vision to Americans in a timely and efficient way,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement announcing the debate schedule.
This marks a significantly slimmer schedule than in 2012. GOP officials were hoping to avoid the nightmare scenario that played out during the 2012 Republican primary fight, when nearly 20 debates left the candidates exhausted, and Republican elders cleaning up messes from the vicious intra-party squabbling on stage.
Following the 2012 election, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus made it a priority to insert the national party into the primary debate process. Priebus also shortened the primary calendar so that Republicans choose a nominee sooner than it did in 2012.
CNN hosted the final debate of the 2008 GOP presidential primary at the Reagan Library, which featured former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Romney, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
“President Reagan is frequently cited as a source of inspiration for many Republican candidates, so we can think of no better venue from which to bring this historic event to viewers and voters,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan said she is pleased that Republicans will be discussing the most important issues of the day at the Library.
“Over 35 years ago, Ronnie announced his candidacy for higher office because he believed that the citizens of this country wanted a president who could inspire,” she said. “It is time to find a new leader and I’m so pleased that the Reagan Foundation, just as it has the last two presidential elections, will be hosting a candidates debate to do just that.”