CNBC, Republicans finalize debate format

Updated 3:13 PM EDT, Fri October 16, 2015
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Story highlights

Candidates threaten to boycott

The next GOP faceoff is Oct. 28, hosted by CNBC

(CNN) —  

CNBC, the Republican National Committee and the GOP presidential campaigns have agreed to criteria for the October 28 primary debate in Boulder, Colorado.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted that the parties have agreed to the following criteria: a two-hour debate, including commercials; a 30-second closing statement for each candidate; and a single, open-ended question at the beginning of the debate that each candidate will have the opportunity to answer.

The new criteria satisfies several of the campaigns’ demands for opening and closing statements, as well a 120-minute cap on the debate time.

CNN reported earlier Friday that CNBC had agreed to limit its forthcoming Republican primary debate to two hours and allow for opening and/or closing statements, acquiescing to the public demands of Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and the private demands of several GOP campaigns.

Trump and Carson had threatened to pull out of the faceoff if the hosts didn’t agree to their demands.

In a letter to CNBC, the two candidates said they would not participate “if it is longer than 120 minutes, including commercials, and does not include opening and closing statements.”

Thursday, in a conference call between Republican National Committee officials and top advisers to the presidential campaigns, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had said that Trump would consider skipping the debate if his terms were not met.

Top aides to Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul also insisted that the debate feature opening and closing statements, with Paul aide Chris LaCivita saying at one point that CNBC could “go f— themselves” if they weren’t willing to agree to those terms, according to two sources on the call.

The demand for opening and closing statements reflects the candidates’ interest in getting their messages out unchallenged. The demand for a two-hour debate comes in the wake of CNN’s decision to extend the previous GOP debate to three hours, leaving some of the candidates visibly exhausted.

But a two-hour broadcast, including commercials, with opening and closing statements, will limit the actual debate time to less than 90 minutes – a short period of time considering that 10 or more GOP hopefuls are likely to appear on stage for the main event.

Carly Fiorina, seemingly unfazed by CNBC’s original parameters for the debate, criticized both Trump and Carson in an interview with Fox News on Thursday night.

“Well, I think apparently they’re worried about answering questions for three hours,” Fiorina told host Megyn Kelly. “For heaven sakes, we have ten candidates on stage. I don’t think three hours is a long time.”

“They also apparently asked for prepared statements,” Fiorina continued. “You know, prepared statements are what politicians do. … So, honestly, here are two outsiders supposedly. Donald Trump and Ben Carson – they sound a lot like politicians tonight to me.”

Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager took the ribbing a step farther on Twitter on Thursday.

“Seems @JebBush isn’t only low energy guy! Looks like @realDonaldTrump @RealBenCarson don’t have endurance to debate @CarlyFiorina for 3hrs,” Sarah Isgur Flores wrote.