Are Republican debate demands a 'sideshow'?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 2, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BARRY BENNETT, CARSON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The one thing that everybody agreed upon is there will be openings and closings, there will be editorial control of graphics, and we also want a formula somehow of equalization of the questions asked to all the candidates so you can't just invite someone on stage and ignore them for two hours.

SEN. RAND PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we should use the leverage of having a very big product that every network wants. We should use that leverage for objective people. They don't have to be Republicans. I think they ought to just be objective.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the candidates speaking out about the debates after the last CNBC debate. There was a meeting of representatives of different campaign just outside Washington this weekend and they came up with a list of demands. First let's hear from the RNC chair about what he thinks about these candidates stepping up.


REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: Look, there's 14 campaigns, and so, you know, it takes a few people, I guess to create a narrative. But, no, the truth is we're involved, we're in control, we're setting the calendar. In fact, if what happened from last night goes forward, I think it's exactly where we want to be.


BAIER: There are some demands. Here's the list so far, the letter obtained by FOX highlights all future debates have a minimum of 30-second opening statements, minimum 30-second closing statements. The campaigns must preapprove any graphics and biographies, bios that the networks plan to use on screen. There will be no lightning rounds because of the frivolousness or gotcha nature, and that the networks will commit to equal time for an equal number of questions for each candidate. The temperature will be kept below 67 degrees Fahrenheit, no candidate to candidate questioning, and that the networks will not allow reaction shots of audience members or moderators or shots of empty podiums after a commercial break. So there.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: First of all, these are pretty reasonable. This is exactly the kind of thing that campaigns negotiate for when they're in a presidential, general election campaign. And it all seems pretty reasonable. It's amazing that the biographies and graphics that were used for Jeb Bush didn't mention that he was the governor of Florida in the CNBC debate. So I think this is pretty reasonable.

The interesting twist, of course, is that Donald Trump has decided he will unilaterally negotiate for himself and not be part of this group negotiation. But there was a real reaction to the CNBC debate, and the candidates, like Rand Paul said, they're a pretty hot commodity. Networks are making a lot of money off this.

I think in some ways this is a sideshow. If they get all these things, then we can then maybe have a debate about their actual ideas and we can see if it's helping the party or not.

BAIER: You mentioned Donald Trump. He wants to negotiate directly with the networks. A couple of the candidates, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina said, hey, listen, I'll debate anywhere, any time. You set up the podiums, we're ready to go.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: There are reports that John Kasich does like it, his campaign is not likely to sign this letter, maybe some others. Look, I think this will end up back with the RNC after all this hubbub.

The problem with the CNBC debate was that the moderators didn't seem to take conservative debates seriously. I'm no defender of Donald Trump, but the question to Donald Trump about him running a comic book campaign was meant to be disrespectful. It was meant not to elicit information. It was meant to be disrespectful, and I think there were a lot of questions like that.

So I certainly understand the complaints from the candidates about the tone of the questions. And it was very different from, for instance, the FOX debate, which had tough, challenging questions which were all meant to elicit information and advance the debate. I think that was the difference.

I don't think this is likely to go anywhere. Ultimately you have 14 different campaigns with different interests. You have Lindsey and Bobby Jindal who want to get on the big stage. You have I think Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio who have proven themselves to be good debaters who would like the debates probably to be longer and are willing to roll with just about anything. You have Trump who has made clear that he wants to keep the debates shorter. They don't have common interests, so I think unless the RNC is really running this show, it's unlikely that they're going to come to any kind of a group consensus.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The Republican candidates should quit while they're ahead. They won this debate against the media.
The debate about the debate is over, and they crushed the media. There is a general consensus, including in liberal media, that it was awful a debate run by disrespectful and kind of useless moderator who clearly showed the world that there's a liberal bias. So the GOP won and actually came out of the debate looking good as a group.

At this point I think to continue to beat the horse, it's kind of pointless. Christie and Fiorina are right. We won that argument. We're ready to show up anywhere at any time, and it actually helps them.

I think the idea of having conservative moderators, say Rush and two people he chooses will be a splendid idea if that panel were to be the moderators for the Democratic debate and the GOP will take any liberal, because obviously when they took on the CNBC liberals, they won. So, you know, the graphics on the temperature of the room is important, but it isn't the main issue. The main issue is debating the ideas.

BAIER: We should point out the next debate is on FOX Business Network, Maria Bartiromo, Neil Cavuto, Jerry Baker with the Wall Street Journal. It will be interesting coming up on the 10th.

Now, just out in the past few minutes, a new national poll with the Wall Street Journal and NBC. They're only releasing the top five, but you see for the first time this poll that Dr. Ben Carson has overtaken Donald Trump in national rating. There you see Rubio making a jump in this particular poll, and Cruz and Bush. It doesn't have the rest of the field.

I do want to put up a Monmouth, New Hampshire, Monmouth College, New Hampshire, this a poll just out today about New Hampshire, and it has Donald Trump still in the lead there. And you see there the breakdown. That's the Real Clear Politics average. Go to the Monmouth one, and there it is, 26-16. Rubio making a jump from four percent to 13 percent. Mara, it seems like his movement -- you know, he's moved a couple points since the debate.

LIASSON: There is no doubt about that. He got a bump out of the debate. It seems like Cruz did, too. But I do think you see two pretty clear tiers. You've got Carson and Trump, those are the outsiders, and they've been on top for a while, one or the other in first place. Then you have Cruz, Rubio and Bush, although in the New Hampshire poll Kasich had also jumped up. And I think that's the dynamic of this race. If Carson and Trump are going to fade, and we don't know if they will, you're going to have a dynamic that many Republicans expected all along, which is a conservative, someone trying to consolidate the conservative vote like a Cruz against an establishment candidate Rubio or Bush. And Rubio is clearly surging from the debate.

BAIER: Today Jeb Bush in Florida, Steve, with another restart. "Jeb Can Fix It" is the title. It's kind of a two-step process, can fix the economy and the country, but not said is fix his own campaign.

HAYES: By all accounts, the speech that he gave today was a very good speech, one of his better speeches of the campaign. The question is, is it enough to get people who have been skeptical of Jeb from the beginning to give him a first look or to get people who have wanted to support Jeb to give him a second look. And there just wasn't anything in that speech I saw that would occasion that kind of another look.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I think Mara is right, but I think of the two outsider leading candidates, it's possible that either one will emerge, or maybe a Cruz will come in and inherit if they both fade. Rubio looks like the one who will be in the other lane, at least now, of this sort of established wing, and that would be if it's one on one and Trump or Carson is up there at 28 percent, 28 percent does not carry you over in a one-on- one race.

BAIER: Mara, something has to change for the Bush campaign. Some dynamic has to change or he's got to go up pretty hard negative against the people he's challenging in his lane, as you mention, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, maybe even Chris Christie.

LIASSON: I think that both those things will happen. Interesting his super PAC will run negative ads. They've got a tremendous amount of money.
But I think he has to come up with a different strategy. He was once beat by an old, crafty politician, Lawton Childs, in Florida. And he needs to be that way to Marco Rubio. He needs to figure out a way that's more clever, creative, where he really contrasts what he's saying is his proven record of conservative accomplishment against this very, you know, talented, maybe slick, newcomer.

HAYES: There's a tremendous risk in him doing that, though, because you have Bush donors who are already giving a hard look at Marco Rubio. But just for a moment, it's pretty remarkable that Marco Rubio is being discussed as the establishment candidate. He was one of original darlings of the Tea Party in 2010. He's a bona fide conservative. People may not agree with his position on immigration, but if that's the establishment, I think conservatives have to be pretty happy about that.

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