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MSNBC Anchor Says RNC's Proposed Changes to Presidential Debates 'Sound Reasonable'

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle said Friday that a number of the Republican National Committee's requested changes to presidential debates, including moving debates ahead of the start of early voting, sound "reasonable."

The RNC said in a Jan. 13 letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates that it will require its 2024 presidential candidates to pledge not to participate in debates run by the commission after the debate committee failed to consider reforms prior to each party choosing a nominee in 2024.

The changes the RNC has proposed include moving the date in which the debates take place to before early voting begins, imposing term limits for the CPD's Board of Directors, prohibiting CPD employees from engaging in partisan political activity such as making public comments supporting or opposing a candidate and establishing criteria to bar individuals from moderating debates if they have a conflict of interest.

After Matthew Dowd, a former George W. Bush strategist who is now a Democrat, said on "MSNBC Reports" that debates are among the limited opportunities the public have in seeing the two candidates in an objective way, Ruhle said that she can get behind the changes proposed by the RNC.

"They want the debates to happen before early voting starts, term limits for the commission's board, and a ban on any partisan political activity for the people in the commission," Ruhle said. "I am a mere mortal. I have never been involved in debates about debates, but when I read those three, I kind of think, I don't know, they sound reasonable."

The anchor asked MSNBC analyst Ashley Parker if the changes were possible. Parker said that the proposals appeared "quite reasonable to people" but noted that negotiations are typically with candidates, not parties.

"The big issue here is that traditionally the commission does not negotiate with the parties. They negotiate with the candidates," Parker said. 

She also said that "You can see a world in which, if the candidate is not Donald Trump … a Republican candidate who thinks they really could do well against Biden, think debates are strength, wanting that debate. So it’s not totally monolithic even within the party necessarily."

The CPD echoed Parker's comments, telling Fox News when asked about the RNC's letter that "the CPD deals directly with candidates for president and vice president who qualify for participation in the CPD’s general election debates" and that the CPD's plans for 2024 "will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues."

Ruhle, while supporting debate reform, pointed out that it could be "dangerous" to have one candidate make claims that go uncontested.

A vote by RNC members on whether Republican presidential candidates will be required to vow not to participate in CPD debates is expected to take place early next month in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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