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Explaining The Glut Of Debates Explaining The Glut Of Debates

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Explaining The Glut Of Debates

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Republican presidential candidates former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, talk across Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, second from left, and businessman Herman Cain during a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Whether he's right or not, Rick Perry has a point -- there are a ton of debates planned this year. There's a reason for that: An internal agreement within the Republican National Committee means the party is using some sanctioned debates as an incentive for good behavior, and others as a tool to mollify members who might otherwise cause trouble.

Back in March, the RNC announced it had formed a committee that would authorize presidential debates. RNC chairman Reince Priebus said the committee would help the party streamline the nominating process, and party strategists hoped it would provide guidance and allow the campaigns time to hit the road. Priebus appointed Indiana national committeeman Jim Bopp, who heads a bloc of conservatives within the RNC, to lead the debate committee.

A side note: Bopp was a big-time opponent of then-RNC chairman Michael Steele. He endorsed Priebus for RNC chairman about three weeks before Priebus won the job.

A parallel debate over how to handle the problem of front-loaded nominating contests has gone on within the RNC for decades. When Arizona and Michigan began threatening to move their nominating contests ahead of the approved "window," which opens March 6, the RNC had a few carrots (like, say, debates) and a few sticks (cutting the size of a state's convention delegation) at the ready.

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