Primary Debates and Forums

May 5, 2011 - Greenville, SC.
June 13, 2011 - Manchester, NH.
Aug. 11, 2011 - Ames, IA.
Sept. 7, 2011 - Simi Valley, CA.
Sept. 12, 2011 - Tampa, FL.
Sept. 22, 2011 - Orlando, FL.
Oct. 11, 2011 - Hanover, NH.
Oct. 18, 2011 - Las Vegas, NV.
Nov. 9, 2011 - Rochester, MI.
Nov. 12, 2011 - Spartanburg, SC.
Nov. 22, 2011 - Washington, DC.
Dec. 10, 2011 - Des Moines, IA.

Dec. 15, 2011 - Sioux City, IA.
Jan. 7, 2012 - Manchester, NH.
Jan. 8, 2012 - Concord, NH.
Jan. 16, 2012 - Myrtle Beach, SC.

Jan. 19, 2012 - No. Charleston, SC.
Jan. 23, 2012 - Tampa, FL.
Jan. 26, 2012 - Jacksonville, FL.
Feb. 22, 2012 - Mesa, AZ.

Row 1: FOX News, CNN, FOX News, NBC News. 
Row 2. CNN, FOX News, Bloomberg, CNN.
Row 3: CNBC, CBS News, CNN, ABC News.
Row 4: FOX News, ABC News, NBC News, FOX News.
Row 5: CNN, NBC News, CNN, CNN.

text revised slightly on August 18, 2013

The Republican presidential candidates engaged in 20 televised debates (calendar).  In addition to these debates, there were many issue forums and "cattle shows" where some or many candidates spoke to party, ideological or interest groups (+).  more...

Televised Debates

(2008 | 2004(Dems) | 2000)

May 5, 2011 - SCGOP/FOX News Debate in Greenville, SC.   transcript | video 

June 13, 2011 - Union Leader/CNN/WMUR-TV Debate in Manchester, NH.   transcript | video

Aug. 11, 2011 - RPI/FOX News/Washington Examiner Debate in Ames, IA.   transcript | video

Sept. 7, 2011 - Reagan Presidential Foundation/Politico/NBC News Debate in Simi Valley, CA.   transcript | video

Sept. 12, 2011 - CNN/Tea Party Express Debate in Tampa, FL.   transcript | video  

Sept. 22, 2011 - RPOF/FOX News/Google Presidency 5 Debate in Orlando, FL.   transcript | video

Oct. 11, 2011 - Bloomberg/The Washington Post/WBIN Debate in Hanover, NH.   transcript | video

Oct. 18, 2011 - Western Republican Leadership Conference/CNN Debate in Las Vegas, NV.   transcript | video

Nov. 9, 2011 - CNBC/Michigan Republican Party "Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate" in Rochester, MI.   transcript | video

Nov. 12, 2011 - CBS News/National Journal Debate on National Security and Foreign Policy in Spartanburg, SC.  transcript | video

Nov. 22, 2011 - CNN/Heritage Foundation/AEI Debate on National Security and Foreign Policy in Washington, DC.   transcript | video (b)

Dec. 10, 2011 - ABC News/Yahoo! Debate in Des Moines, IA.  transcript | video

Dec. 15, 2011 - RPI/FOX News Debate in Sioux City, IA.  transcript | video

Jan. 7, 2012 - ABC News, Yahoo! News, WMUR-TV Republican Presidential Debate in Manchester, NH.

Jan. 8, 2012 - NBC News, Facebook and the New Hampshire Union Leader Debate in Concord, NH.  transcript | video

Jan. 16, 2012 - SCGOP/FOX News/Wall Street Journal Debate in Myrtle Beach, SC.  transcript | video

Jan. 19, 2012 - SRLC/CNN Town Hall Debate in No. Charleston, SC.  transcript |

Jan. 23, 2012 - NBC News, National Journal, St. Petersburg Times, Florida Council of 100 debate in Tampa, FL.

Jan. 26, 2012 - CNN/RPOF Debate in Jacksonville, FL.  transcript |

Feb. 22, 2011 - CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate in Mesa, AZ.  transcript |

Events and Forums

Feb. 10-12, 2011 - CPAC in Washington, DC.

March 7, 2011 - Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum in Waukee, IA.

March 26, 2011 - Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines, IA.

April 29, 2011 - Americans for Prosperity Foundation's Presidential Summit in Manchester, NH.

June 3-4, 2011 - Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, DC. 

June 15-18, 2011 Republican Leadership Conference and Reagan Centennial Celebration in New Orleans, LA.

Aug. 13, 2011 - Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, IA.

Sept. 5, 2011 - The Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, SC.

Sept. 22-24, 2011 - Presidency 5 Straw Poll in Orlando, FL.

Sept. 23, 2011 - CPAC FL in Orlando, FL.

Sept. 23-25, 2011 - Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, MI.

Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2011 - Freedom Jamboree & Tea Party National Straw Poll Convention in Kansas City, KS.cancelled July 13

Oct. 7-8, 2011 - 2011 Midwest Leadership Conference in Bloomington, MN. +

Oct. 7-9, 2011 - Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC.

Oct. 18-21, 2011 - Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

Oct. 27, 2011 - College Board/News Corp. "The Future of American Education: A Presidential Primary Forum" in New York, NY.

Nov. 1, 2011 - National Association of Manufacturers forum on job creation and competitiveness in Pella, IA.

Nov. 3-5, 2011 - Americans for Prosperity Foundation's Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington, DC.

Nov. 19, 2011 - FAMiLY LEADER Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, IA.

Dec. 3, 2011 - FOX News’ Mike Huckabee Republican Presidential Forum in New York, NY.

Dec. 7, 2011 - Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC.

Dec. 14, 2011 - Premiere of  "The Gift of Life," a Citizens United Production,in Des Moines, IA.

Jan. 14, 2012 - "Huckabee Forum: South Carolina Undecided" in Charleston, SC.

Jan. 17, 2012 - South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee/South Carolina Chamber of Commerce 2012 Republican Presidential Primary Candidate Forum in Columbia, SC.

Jan. 18, 2012 - Personhood USA Presidential Prolife Forum in Greenville, SC.

Jan. 25, 2012 - United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Univision "Meet the Candidates" forum in Miami, FL.

Feb. 9-11, 2012 - CPAC in Washington, DC. >

March 3, 2012 - "Huckabee Special: Forum 3 - Jobs" in Wilmington, OH.

About Primary Debates and Forums

Over the past three cycles, the first debates have been as early as April 26 (2007) or as late as Oct. 22 (1999).  This cycle, the first debate was originally scheduled for May 2, 2011 at the Reagan Library, but sponsors moved it to September due to the lack of declared candidates.  The South Carolina Republican Party held a debate on May 5, 2011 in Greenville, but only five candidates participated; the June 13, 2011 debate in New Hampshire carried much more weight.  About twenty debates have been announced, which is more than most candidates are willing to participate in.  (The RNC set up a committee in March 2011 to make recommendations on primary debates; on April 1, 2011 it proposed a series of six sanctioned debates to be held from August through February; those events were to be held in conjunction with fundraisers to help the party retire its debt.  Nothing came of this). 

Not all of the proposed debates actually occurred1.  As in past cycles, there have been controversies about candidates who are excluded.  The sponsoring networks use various combinations of poll results to determine who will appear on stage.  There is a bit of Catch 22 going on since some candidates are not included in polls (1, 2, 3).  Former Gov. Gary Johnson, former Gov. Buddy Roemer, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter and activist Fred Karger found themselves on the outside looking in for some or all of the debates.  McCotter did not make a single televised debate before he withdrew, and Roemer and Karger have yet to appear on stage.  At the other end of the spectrum a frontrunning candidate can to a limited extent determine which debates he or she will participate in (+).

Being included on the stage does not guarantee a candidate equal footing.  Looking at the statistics there appears to be a bias toward giving the frontrunners more questions and more time.2  CNN's Sam Feist notes that the network's moderators try to give the same number of questions to each of the candidates, but the time issue is more difficult in that the frontrunners are naturally a focus of the other candidates. 

The formats of the debates have tended to be fairly similar.  Generally candidates have one minute for responses and 30 seconds for follow ups and rebuttals.  There is scant room for direct exchanges between the candidates, although the approach of the moderator can make a difference.  A study by Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics found that FOX moderators spoke for 65 percent more time than those at CNN (the FOX ratio of candidate time to moderator time was 2.76 minutes to 1 compared to 5.12 minutes to 1 for CNN).3  Each of the debates thus far this cycle has had a large studio audience.4  CNN prefers to use a single moderator rather than a panel of journalists.  In addition to the issue-oriented questions, some of the early debates had a lighter or "getting to know the candidates" question.

Individual debates rarely prove decisive, in the sense that one candidate clearly outshines the others, but a series of strong performances can boost a candidacy, while gaffes or sub-par performances can undermine a hopeful's efforts.  In particular, former Speaker Newt Gingrich5 has benefited from these events while Gov. Rick Perry had a crippling performance in the Nov. 9, 2011 debate in Michigan.  Walter Shapiro, covering his ninth presidential campaign, observed in The New Republic that "most campaign debates are like old-time Chinese food—they seem filling while the TV cameras are rolling, but two hours later most of the gotcha moments and zingers fade into irrelevance."6

In addition to debates, where candidates share the stage, there are also forums where candidates individually address a particular issue.  For example on Oct. 27, 2011 the College Board and News Corp. held an education forum and on Nov. 1, 2011 the National Association of Manufacturers held a forum on job creation and competitiveness. 

More broadly there are "cattle shows" where some or many candidates deliver a version of their stump speech to party, ideological or interest groups.  Events such as CPAC (Feb. 10-12, 2011) provide early organizing tests >.  The biggest event of the pre-primary period was likely the Republican Party of Iowa Straw Poll in Ames on Aug. 13, 2011. (2007, 1999)  Although the Iowa Straw Poll did not affect the selection of delegates, total spending around this event added up to millions of dollars and the event did knock former Gov. Tim Pawlenty out of the race.  Another big event was the Republican Party of Florida's Presidency V event with straw poll held in Orlando on Sept. 22-24, 2011. 

1. Cancelled debates included:
- ATR/Daily Caller/Citizen Outreach Foundation Debate in Las Vegas, NV, scheduled for July 10, 2011, postponed June 23.

- (NBC-Universal) Telemundo Debate proposed for early Dec. 2011 in Las Vegas, NV did not occur.

- Univision debate planned for Jan. 29, 2012 fell apart after the candidates announced in early Oct. 2011 that they would boycott the event due to what Republicans saw as unethical practices by the network in covering Sen. Marco Rubio.

- Des Moines Register Debate in Johnston, IA, orig. scheduled for Jan. 12, 2012, rescheduled to Dec. 19, 2011, and canceled Nov. 16.

- Newsmax ION Television 2012 Presidential Debate, to be moderated by Donald Trump, scheduled for Dec. 27, 2011 in Des Moines, IA.  Trump withdrew on Dec. 13, 2011.

- CNN/Georgia Republican Party Debate scheduled for March 1, 2012 in Atlanta, GA; canceled Feb. 16, 2012 after Romney and Paul declined to participate.

- Eve of Super Tuesday - Reagan Presidential Foundation/Politico/NBC News in Simi Valley, CA.  This debate was never finalized. When the Reagan Presidential Foundation made its announcement its August 2011, it stated that it wanted to hold the first debate and last debate, pre-Super Tuesday.  Soon afterwards it became clear that  California would not be a part of Super Tuesday.

- Oregon Republican Party-hosted debate scheduled for March 19, 2012 in Portland, OR; canceled March 15, 2012 "because commitments were not received by all the candidates."

-In March theTexas Republican Party proposed a nationally televised debate for May 2012.  Gingrich, Paul and Santorum committed to participate; Romney did not.  The nomination was effectively decided in April rendering the proposal moot.

Also note that dates of some debates changed from what was initially announced, particularly following Florida's move of its primary (announced Sept. 30) to Jan. 31 and the subsequent shuffling of the primary calendar.

2. On his blog "Dawn of the Weak" Wes Hemings of Austin, TX, provides a useful analysis of candidate speaking time and other statistics starting with the Politico debate.   An analysis by Matthew Humer, a student at the UNH Whittemore School of Business and Economics, of the June 13 New Hampshire debate showed that Romney received the most face time on camera, 12.90 minutes, followed by Pawlenty (11.22), Gingrich (10.03), Bachmann (9.22), Santorum (9.03), Paul (8.53) and Cain with the least time, 8.45 minutes.  Humer's coding scheme "counted screen time when less that the full group was on screen; face must be visible, back and side shots did not count; did not count speaking time, ony physical presence on screen."  One must also consider that for most of these debates the candidates leading in the polls are positioned in the center podiums and those trailing are at the outside podiums.

3. Eric Ostermeier "CNN Gives Candidates the Most Rope While FOX Has the Tightest Leash at GOP Debates."  Smart Politics [Center for the Study of Politics and Governance (CSPG) at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs], Feb. 24, 2012.

In 2008 and 2004 NPR and Iowa Public Radio organized audio only debates; that will not happen this cycle.  There was a Twitter debate. First Presidential Debate on Twitter took place on July 20, 2011.

5. Gingrich is engaged in one-on-one "Lincoln-Douglas style debates" with several of the candidates.

6. Walter Shapiro.  "Rick Perry's Ponzi Scheme Debate." The New Republic, Sept. 8, 2011. +

7. See also: Mark McKinnon.  "Gone Rogue: Time to Reform the Presidential Primary Debates." Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy Discussion Paper Series #D-67, Jan. 2012. [PDF]