In a move straight out of his reality TV series, "The Apprentice," Donald Trump’s campaign declared it would directly discuss his terms for future debates with television executives rather than jointly with other Republican presidential hopefuls, reports The Washington Post.
Trump’s power play came hours after his and other GOP presidential candidates' campaigns gathered near Washington, D.C., to put together a three-page letter of potential demands. The meeting followed the latest televised debate on Oct. 28 on CNBC with which several candidates were unhappy.
How upcoming debates will be handled is currently unclear.
Trump’s followers have said the billionaire mogul — who garnered record ratings — reportedly has no interest in cooperating with his opponents to promote their demands.
The jockeying by Trump and the other Republican contenders irritated network executives. “We agreed to this and now you’re saying you’re not agreeing?” an anonymous executive told The Washington Post.
“Do you want Ben Carson deciding who your moderators are? The answer is no,” added another. “Do you want [Louisiana Gov.] Bobby Jindal’s campaign dictating how the debates will be run when Bobby Jindal may not even be in the race much longer?”
Trump’s demands seem to be at odds with the recent efforts from Republican policymakers hoping to set standards for the debates.
Trump has shown he’s prepared to collaborate with others to get what he wants for the debates. On Oct. 15, Fortune reported that Ben Carson and Trump banded together to boycott the Republican debates unless they were shortened.
“Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson do agree to a 120-minute debate that includes commercial breaks and opening and closing statements. Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson do not, and will not, agree to appear at a debate that is more than 120 minutes long including commercial breaks,” said two of candidates’ reps to Matthew Cuddy, CNBC’s Washington Bureau chief.
In an interview, Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, said that the only divergence between the Trump and Carson camps regarding the debates was that, “They [Trump’s camp] don’t want more people onstage, because they think that would mean more people taking shots at him,” Bennett said. “I’d argue that putting more people onstage actually helps Trump the most, as everyone’s going to want to divide the time evenly.”
Trump’s attempt to break ranks reinforces his tendency of conveying himself as an expert negotiator. “I am very confident in Mr. Trump’s ability to negotiate the best deals with the networks, which will ultimately help all of the candidates in the race,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager. “He’s the best negotiator in the field, by a wide margin, and we’ve seen that time and time again.”
At the moment, it is unclear exactly what his demands are, but it will likely involve more airtime for Trump, fewer contenders onstage and a shorter overall time for the debate.