The debates have proven popular with audiences and candidates, driving record ratings to cable networks while providing free visibility for candidates. But they have also provided damaging moments, including Rick Perryoops” gaffe and renewed interest in Newt Gingrichs contract with Freddie Mac at a CNBC contest last week.

But Republican leaders in Iowa have described the debates as important to the vetting process.

“This is a win-win agreement as it is in the best interest of our Republican presidential candidates and Iowa’s Republican caucusgoers,” said Matt Strawn, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. “First, the remaining nationally televised debates will assist our candidates in reaching as wide an audience as possible in the final weeks leading up to the January 3rd caucuses. Second, reducing the number of Iowa debates provides our candidates more time to engage in the personal, retail politicking with voters that is the hallmark of the Iowa caucuses.”