CNBC made it official today, announcing its GOP debate will be two hours long on October 28, starting at 8 PM ET. Today marked the close of the five-week window for determining eligibility for the debate based on national polls. Donald Trump’s in – duh– as are Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rand Paul.
The other guys – Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham – go to the kids’ table; that debate starts at 6 PM.
CNBC hosts Carl Quintanilla, and Becky Quick, and the network’s Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood, will moderate the debate at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Last week, Trump threatened to boycott unless CNBC promised to cap the debate at two hours. Trump has taken credit for the record 23 million-24 million viewers who’ve tuned in for the first two GOP debates, suggesting they should be paying him for ginning up ratings that are not only record highs for debates among White House candidates, but also biggest-ever crowds for the networks.
Trump exerted his considerable leverage to make sure he would not have to stand onstage for longer than two hours at this debate, after a phone call with the candidates in which the network suggested it might extend it longer. The most recent GOP debate, on CNN, ran three hours. But, the real estate mogul and former reality TV star, whose flair for the dramatic has kept him the GOP front-runner in the race for the White House, had seemed to fade in the third hour of that debate, when it moved past the preliminary insult-hurling that characterized the first OP debate on Fox News Channel, and got down to policy wonkery. Several political pundits and TV navel lint gazers noted his fade-out and mentioned it. Apparently, Trump did too; when asked immediately after it had wrapped what he’d learned, Trump snarked he’d learned he could stand on stage for three hours.
And, sure enough, last week Trump made his move, threatening to boycott the Q&A unless the network capped the clambake at two hours. “I think it’s unfair to the viewers because it’s too much to watch,” he told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren while playing chicken with CNBC last week. “They’re doing it because they want to make more money.” He told Susteren he personally did not care how long the debate ran and was merely looking out for his audience. “I don’t care – I could stand for five hours; I could stand for 10 hours,” he boasted.