Washington: Upset over the ground rules for the next Republican presidential debate, frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson are threatening to boycott the Oct 28 showdown on CNBC unless the debate format is changed.
Media mogul Trump and noted neurosurgeon Carson, the two non politician candidates, who have been leading the Republican field in recent polls, are seeking an overall time limit on the debate, given that the last one went on for three hours, and the ability to make opening and closing statements.
According to latest Real Clear Politics average of poll Trump leads the Republican pack with 23.4 percent votes followed by Carson with 19.1 percent. Establishment favourite Jeb Bush has fallen to the fifth place with 7.3 percent.
“Neither Mr. Trump or Dr. Carson will participate in your debate if it is longer than 120 minutes including commercials and does not include opening and closing statements,” they wrote in a letter to CNBC Thursday.
The CNBC format, according to the letter calls for two hours of debate time, with four commercial breaks that will in add up to 8-16 minutes, in total. The original plan also stated there would be no opening or closing statements for the candidates.
Carson and Trump concluded their letter, “Both our campaigns hope that you will agree with these very reasonable format changes so that CNBC may present all the Republican candidates to your audience.”
Trump, who has been complaining about how sick he was of “boring” debates, also fired off a couple of tweets at CNBC.
CNBC spokesman Brian Steel indicated in a statement that the network might change the format to accede to Carson’s and Trump’s demands.
“Our practice in the past has been to forego opening statements to allow more time to address the critical issues that matter most to the American people,” he said.
“We started a dialogue yesterday with all of the campaigns involved and we will certainly take the candidates’ views on the format into consideration as we finalise the debate structure.”
Trump has in the past toyed with the idea of boycotting the presidential primary debates, suggesting in August that he would skip a CNN debate unless the network donated its profits to charity.