Donald Trump blows up negotiations for GOP debates, will Art of the Deal with networks directly

Representatives from each of the Republican campaigns (except for Carly Fiorina’s, apparently, since she wasn’t allowed to send her super PAC) have been working through the weekend in order to compile a list of demands for networks that wish to host future Republican primary debates.

Some of these demands were reasonable. For instance, while Twitter had some fun with the campaigns’ request that debates be held in rooms kept at or below 67 degrees, candidates make demands like that all the time. And it’s an easy enough thing to control. Other demands, on the other hand, were positively ridiculous, ranging from petty to unenforceable to antithetical to the very concept of debates. The candidates wanted the right to pre-approve the graphics that would appear next to them on-screen, have networks commit to no candidate-to-candidate questions and prohibit candidates from making pledges while on stage, among other demands.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Republican National Committee was to be cut out from the debate terms process entirely, relegated to the role of organizing the logistics of the events themselves.

It’s amazing what kind of justice a group can get for themselves when they collectively bargain with an organization that profits from their labor, no?

However, all that just got thrown out the window, as Donald Trump — because of course it would be Donald Trump — has backed out of the agreement, declaring that he is going to negotiate with the networks directly. From the Washington Post:

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Trump plans to reject a joint letter to television network hosts regarding upcoming primary debates drafted Sunday at a private gathering of operatives from at least 11 presidential campaigns, the Republicans said.

The move by Trump, coming just hours after more than a dozen Republican strategists huddled in the Washington suburbs to craft a list of possible demands, effectively throttles an effort by the campaigns and the letter’s drafter, longtime GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg, to find consensus and work collectively to negotiate terms.

While two of Trump’s senior aides attended the Sunday meeting, they were far from ready to sign a letter, and they left the session unconvinced that a group push on the debates would be helpful to protecting Trump’s front-runner status or providing him with the most possible air time on primetime stages, the Republicans added.

To be clear, the particulars of debate negotiations are always messy and they are always petty. They just usually aren’t this far out in the open, and they usually aren’t held from such a position of fear at the possibility of getting asked about the particulars of candidates’ tax plans and personal affiliations.

They also usually don’t include Donald Trump.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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