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RNC Announces GOP Presidential Primary Debate Calendar

 / Updated 
Image: CNN And Arizona GOP Host Presidential Debate
MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Republican presidential candidates (L-R), former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talk before a debate sponsored by CNN and the Republican Party of Arizona at the Mesa Arts Center February 22, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. The debate is the last one scheduled before voters head to the polls in Arizona's primary on February 28 and Super Tuesday on March 6. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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The $10,000 bet. Self-deportation. Unreleased tax returns. They were all problems for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012--and they all played out on the primary debate stage.

Not in 2016, Republicans are vowing. The Republican National Committee on Friday announced plans for nine presidential primary debates this summer and fall, with an additional three possible late in the primary season.

It's a dramatic drop from the 22 debates that were held during the 2012 presidential primary season and represents an attempt to protect GOP candidates from potentially damaging remarks on the debate stage. In 2012, eventual nominee Romney had to battle his way through challenger after challenger in state after state, leading to some of those damaging moments and giving other candidates an elevated platform to attack him.

Republicans also believe that debate hosts were often too liberal, and they want to include more conservatives in the process.

"Our goal has been to have an element of conservatism brought tint these debates in some way, shape or form," RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

The first debate, hosted by Fox News, will take place in August in Ohio. The precise location isn't set yet, though the Cleveland area is a possibility.

Other debates will be broadcast on CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, ABC News, NBC News and Telemundo.

So far, debates are set to take place in Ohio, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

The RNC is still negotiating to include conservative media partners and potential panelists; there is also a tentative "conservative media debate" scheduled for late in the primary season.

- Kasie Hunt

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