Debating Republican Debates

The GOP wants to reduce the number of presidential primary debates:

At the RNC’s spring meeting, it will announce the formation of a standing committee on debates. The committee will select moderators, evaluate rules, and determine the number of debates. The total number is likely to be half of the previous cycle, and the committee will likely agree to remove delegates from any candidate who participates in a debate outside the party structure.

Ron Klaim thinks this a mistake. He argues that “GOP debates in 2012 saved the party from what surely would have led to a 50-state Obama landslide: nominating Rick Perry”:

[A] year prior to Election Day 2012 the Perry juggernaut was so strong that even the Great and Powerful Oz (aka Nate Silver) wrote a New York Times Sunday magazine piece forecasting a 55 percent chance that Perry would beat Obama in the general election. What stopped Perry, and saved the Republican Party from nominating a hopeless, hapless candidate?  Those much reviled debates, where Perry blew—not one, not two—but three debate appearances. And what finally did Perry in? One of those much maligned “media sponsored” debates, where CNBC journalist John Harwood called Perry out for being unable to name the three federal agencies he proposed to abolish. It took multiple debates to expose Perry’s weakness, and sharp questioning by a savvy reporter to make that weakness fatal. Absent those, the GOP might have nominated an atrocious candidate and left the dissection work to President Obama in the fall. Rather than trying to cut back the number of debates and wrest control of them from media types, the Republican Party should send Harwood and CNBC a bouquet and beg them to hold 20 more debates in 2016 to weed out any empty suit candidates.