By Jordan Stephen
The 2016 election cycle is likely to be remembered as the presidential contest that largely ignored the rulebook.
For outsider candidates, such as Republican front-runners Ben Carson and Donald Trump, disregard for traditional politics has given them a strong following among large swaths of disgruntled voters.
But for the Republican National Committee, an emphasis on the apolitical saps them of their electoral clout. The popularity of candidates who have little need for the committee's support coupled with RNC's difficulty in managing the debates leaves the committee with a much more minimized role than intended.
"The RNC is in a difficult position," Candice Nelson, Director of American University's Campaign Management Institute, told GVH Live. "Typically the bench of candidates would have been active in the party and come up through the ranks. Trump and Carson are not like that and they don't have to follow the same rules."
Headed by Chairman Reince Priebus, the committee vowed to take a more active role in the 2016 race, but some candidates and Republican voters feel the strategy is more of an incursion than aid.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the aftermath of last month's CNBC Republican primary debate. Just days after the event, which some contenders called unsubstantial and "nasty" , a meeting was called among the candidates to rework the debate process.
The RNC, which plays a key role in planning the debates, was not asked to send a representative.
Following the meeting, a draft letter was leaked outlining conditions that a number of Republican candidates suggested must be met in order for them to participate in future debates.
The committee responded to the CNBC contest by cancelling a February debate hosted by NBC, but the message from the bothered candidates was already clear: The Republican contenders would take matters into their own hands if the RNC could not structure the debates to their liking.
Criticism has also been lodged against the two-tier debate format, which relegates low-polling candidates to an earlier, less watched program before the main event.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, both big characters within the party, failed to qualify for the main primary debate.