The Great Debate


The RNC has a plan to limit debates and, in order to make the case and distract from one key issues, the RNC is using CNN and NBC as its whipping boys.

Contrary to a lot of reports, it is not actually CNN’s news gathering division that would be producing a Hillary Clinton documentary, but a separate unit. Nonetheless, the two are intrinsically linked, Jeff Zucker should have known better, and CNN originally promoted cross-collaboration between the newsroom and CNN Films. For example:


Following a potential theatrical run, selected docs will make their broadcast premiere on CNN U.S. and (in some cases) CNN International during prime-time hours with limited commercial interruption.…

Before and after broadcasting selected documentaries, CNN will run programming hosted by correspondents including Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper that shed light on topics discussed in each film.

Taking on the Hillary Clinton documentary when most on the right have legitimate reason to believe in media bias was poorly thought out. I hope CNN will consider dropping the Hillary documentary. As for NBC, I never understood who thought it was a good idea to host a debate on MSNBC and maintain that the NBC/Politico debate was the worst debate of the Republican Primary.

What the press does not seem to understand is that primary debates should be about helping primary voters decide on candidates, not for the press to get soundbites to use against those candidates. While primaries are certainly appropriate places to cover Todd Akin ground and weed out those candidates early, we need not spend time in primary debates going through an exhaustive exercise on global warming and abortion — issues about which the media cares a great deal and base Republican voters very little outside of wanting to make sure its candidates are pro-life.

There were too many debates in 2012. I actually think CNN put on some good debates, including both the Arizona and South Carolina debates that I was involved with as a CNN commentator. I think Fox put on debates that were more tailored to Republican primary voters than most of the other debates. While there were some very good debates, some were dreadful — including the CNBC debate and many were just useless. The candidates could have better spent their time fundraising and meeting voters than destroying each other and themselves on stage.


Personally, I’d love to moderate a debate. I really would. I have long thought that RedState, as one of the most authentic voices of the grassroots GOP in America, would be able to field great, relevant questions from the base. But all of this overlooks the one key issue about limiting debates.

It is not, contrary to much of the hubbub, primarily about the damage inflicted among the candidates, though there was much. Arguably, the amount of debates gave Romney an edge over Barack Obama in their first debate. What this is about, however, is curtailing the ability of upstart challengers getting a leg up on the chosen one. Since the Republican Convention in 2012, the GOP has been working hard to prevent another Santorum, Gingrich, and Cain surge. The party sees them as unable to win over the course of a primary season, but in the short term able to prolong the pain of primaries.

The debates are where Cain, Santorum, and Gingrich were able to find their momentum and stand out from the pack. Yes, media outlets airing Clinton propaganda disqualify themselves from hosting debates. Yes, there were far, far too many debates in 2012. But, without the debates I wonder who challengers outside the guy the party elders line up behind early will have a platform. That’s a real concern, but one I think the RNC has no interest in really addressing because they actually see those people as more of a problem than a help. I hope the number of debates they’ve decided on will be enough to let future upstarts with the potential to take off actually take off.


Oddly enough, if the RNC goes forward with its more limited debate schedule, it really should consider moderators with large personal platforms like Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, or even me who can then spend more time one on one with each of those candidates to offset the reduced debate stage.


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