DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is joining the chorus of Republicans who want changes to the party's plans for its presidential debates, saying all major candidates in the race should be treated equally.
The influential governor of the early voting state said Monday the debates should not be limited to "the people that are in the top tier on some national poll." Instead, Branstad suggests grouping the field of many as 20 contenders into two panels.
"Then the public gets to see all the candidates and you don't limit it by who's got the most money and that sort of thing," Branstad said.
Branstad says he plans to reach out to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes to talk about the issue. A collection of New Hampshire Republicans last week also called for changes to first debate, scheduled for Aug. 6.
Fox News, the host of the first debate, plans to restrict it to the top 10 candidates based on polling averages from the five most recent national public opinion surveys. Last week, the network said candidates who do not qualify for the debate will be invited to participate in a forum to be aired on the afternoon of the debate.
Asked to comment on Branstad's statement, Fox spokeswoman Carly Shanahan pointed to the network's announcement of the additional forum.
The second GOP presidential debate, hosted by CNN in September, will divide its event into two parts. One will feature the 10 highest polling candidates, the other will include the remaining candidates who register at least 1 percent in public polling.
Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor would prefer to see candidates randomly grouped. CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas said in an email the format "will allow all of the Republican presidential candidates, who meet the eligibility criteria, an opportunity to discuss their visions for the future."
This story has been correct to reflect that Roger Ailes is chairman and CEO of Fox News.