Well, after a 2012 campaign in which Republicans not only outspent Democrats but had a presidential primary that dominated political coverage for more than half a year, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has a different take. He thinks people heard too much from his party:
Discussing the party’s presidential primary process, [Republican National Committee Chairman Reince] Priebus said he’d also like to see fewer candidate debates than the more than 20 that were held in 2011 and 2012. He also said he wants the party to play a greater role in picking debate moderators and consider a penalty for candidates who attend unsanctioned forums.Yeesh. Talk about missing the point. If Priebus believes talking about what the GOP stands for hurt Republicans in 2012, the solution isn't to put a muzzle on his party—the solution is to change what his party stands for.
Moreover, I don't even think he's right about the primary debates hurting the GOP. Yes, there were plenty of damaging moments in those debates, but without them, Republicans might very well have nominated Rick Perry. Sure, the debates gave Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain opportunities to become the "not Romney" of the moment—but they also gave Romney a chance to seize control of the race. With fewer debates, Romney wouldn't have had as many comeback attempts. Maybe Priebus thinks the GOP would have been better off with Newt or Santorum, but I'm thinking not.
The bottom line is that getting rid of the Republican debates wouldn't have cured the party of its fundamental problems. It wouldn't have erased the Bush presidency. It wouldn't have stopped Mitt Romney from making his 47 percent comments. It wouldn't have silenced Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock. If Republican leaders think shining a spotlight on their party is bad for business, the problem isn't the spotlight: It's what the spotlight reveals.