- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2015

The head of the Republican National Committee is defending the moves the party has made to get a better handle on GOP presidential debates.

Chairman Reince Priebus and the RNC have recently come under sharp criticism for going along with the decision of Fox News to whittle down the number of candidates participating in Thursday’s 9 p.m. GOP presidential debate to 10 based on national polls.

Speaking outside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Mr. Priebus said the party faces a “balancing act” between giving all the candidates a chance to be heard and making sure the process doesn’t become unhinged.

“Having 17 candidates is important and giving everyone an opportunity is important, but, you know, containment is a key word, too,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“We have got to make sure that we abide by [former President Ronald] Reagan’s 11th commandment as best as you can and make sure that we don’t really put up with a whole lot of mudslinging,” he said, alluding to the old adage popularized by Mr. Reagan: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican.”

Mr. Priebus said the party needed to get more control over the debates following the 2012 nomination race, where there were more than 20 showdowns.

“If you go back to the beginning, we wanted to do a couple things, guys. No. 1, we didn’t want to have 23 debates. We are not,” he said, adding that they also have more say over who moderates the contests. “And we are going to give our candidates a set schedule, which we have.”

He also described the atmosphere in Cleveland as “incredible.”

“All the interest is on the Republican side right now,” he said. “The Democratic side is a bit of a sleeper.”

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