Did University of Houston Just Lose the GOP Primary Debate?

University of Houston may not get to host the GOP debate candidates after al.
University of Houston may not get to host the GOP debate candidates after al.
Photo by Brian Reading via Wikimedia Commons

Back in October when the University of Houston first announced that the school would host the of Republican presidential debates on February 26, it was a pretty huge deal for the university, a get right up there with scoring Matthew McConaughey as commencement speaker. However, since the debate location was announced a lot has changed, including the date of the debate and the media company that is handling it. Now we're left wondering if the UH venue itself will also be slotted out for something completely different. 

Originally the debate was going to be held at UH, featuring all the qualifying candidates, and the event, sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, was slated to be the final GOP debate before the crucial "Super Tuesday" primary contests in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia on March 1. (Alaska, Minnesota and Wyoming also will award delegates on that same day.)

But then, as we've previously noted, Sen. Ted Cruz got into a bit of a scrape during a GOP presidential primary debate hosted by CNBC in late October. Cruz was asked about his divisive approach to politicking and instead of, you know, answering the question he turned it into a magnificent diatribe against CNBC's approach to the Republican presidential primary debates and the liberal media as a whole.

Cruz touched a nerve in the Republican Party with his claims that GOP candidates are not treated as well as Democratic candidates by the media types who moderate these debates, and the prospects of the UH-hosted debate devolved from there. The RNC responded at the end of October by temporarily breaking ties with NBC and leaving the whole question of the scheduled Houston debate up in the air. NBC executives remained upbeat about the whole thing, stating at the time that they were working in "good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party."

Alas, it seems the two never did manage to mend fences on this issue.

On Monday the RNC officially severed ties with NBC for the debate scheduled to take place on February 26 at UH. The debate will now be hosted by CNN and will take place on February 25. NBC proper is now completely out of the picture even though NBC-owned Telemundo will still take part as will the original conservative media partner National Review. Salem Communications, which has partnered with CNN for its previous two Republican primary debates will also participate. 

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus didn't mince words in the statement he issued Monday on the debate. “The Republican National Committee has decided to move forward without NBC’s participation in the February debate in Houston, Texas. The RNC has awarded the debate to CNN, who will broadcast it on Thursday, February 25 in Houston at a location to be decided," Priebus stated.

And since the RNC basically said they're undecided about the debate location, it's become decidedly unclear where the actual debate will be held or if UH will be involved in any way with the nationally-televised event. UH spokeswoman P’nina Topham says they have no comment at this time. 

Maybe they'll really add insult to injury and move the whole shindig to Rice University instead. No matter where it ends up, we can't stop pondering over the fact that none of this would have happened if Cruz had simply answered the question about his political tactics instead of attacking CNBC. It's amazing how the way events unfold so often hinges on such small choices.


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