Tonight’s the big night and the question on everyone’s mind: what’s the drunk driver in lane one gonna do?
Fox News’ chief political anchor and host of Special Report, Bret Baier, will be one of the lucky co-moderators tasked with keeping candidates (both drunk and sober) in their lanes during the first primetime Republican presidential debate this evening (9 p.m. ET).
We had the oppurtunity to chat with Bret earlier this week about what it’s like preparing for his 6th debate as moderator, Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants and he puts his stamp of approval on the KD2DC campaign. Enjoy!
FishbowlDC: As a moderator, how do you maintain impartiality, while keeping candidates honest? Furthermore, how do you prepare for an event such as this one?
Bret Baier: It takes a lot of preparation. We’ve got a great team. My co-moderators, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, we’ve been in this cocoon of preparing for a few weeks now—honing each others questions, trying to refine them and going over variables. Obviously, I moderated five prior debates last cycle and have a decent feel for how the flow is, but 10 is the most candidates on a primary debate stage, so it does take some logistics to bounce around. We have people who will make sure that we’re as close as possible to time and number of questions for each candidate as we can be, and that’s a real time operation that’s happening in my ear and the ears of Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly. A lot of it we will change on the fly that night. We’ll be as fair as we can to every single candidate on that stage.
FBDC: What impact, if any, do you foresee the removal of the one percent threshold will have on the debate?
BB: For the primetime debate, it doesn’t effect this at all. It’s the same criteria we had from the beginning. That determination will be made by an average of five major polls from major organizations, and our decision desk will make that call. The one percent left was for the earlier debate from 5- 6 p.m. Eastern with Bill Hemmer and Martha Maccallum, and that was simply an effort to respond to being as open as possible to be able to get all of the declared candidates, who are being polled by major news organizations and major polling organizations, on the stage in Cleveland.
FBDC: What do you believe are the issues that voters are most interested in hearing about during this first debate?
BB: Well, first of all, just looking at the buckets of topics that we’re covering, I mean, if you look at any big operation—Associated Press—are polls about what people are concerned about. We’re definitely going to be answering questions about all those main topics. I think there are some questions about individuals, and what they’ve said before and electability questions that are always interesting during primary debates. And we’ll see what happens over the next few days, breaking news may change the whole deal. We are trying to be as flexible as we can with planning for this big night.
FBDC: You did an interview with Donald Trump in April before he announced his presidential candidacy, in which he almost verbatim repeated the now infamous comments about Mexican immigrants during his campaign announcement speech (replacing “rapists” with “murders” and “killers”). Why do you think so many people are so shocked by these disparaging comments about the Hispanic community, when he’s been fairly consistent in his inflammatory rhetoric?
BB: I think that it got picked up, it was a couple days after he actually made his announcement, and then there was a story about it and it got a lot of legs and a lot of response. You’re right, he’s been saying something similar. I think it was the phrasing he used in that particular announcement that really raised some eyebrows. But he’s since been out on the trail saying something very similar and defends it. That said, he has had tapped a section of the GOP that is pretty fed up with politics in general, and he’s managed to—obviously, according to the polls—have some success.
FBDC: You recently re-upped your contract with Fox News, signing on to a multi-year deal. What does this mean to you?
BB: First of all, Roger Ailes has been fantastic to me from the beginning and he’s given me a ton of opportunities, so it’s a real thrill to be here for the long term with Fox. I really don’t think there would be a better job that I could think of as far as covering things and covering politics when politics is important, so it means a lot to stay here long term and I’m just excited about the future.
FBDC: I know you’re a fellow fan of our beloved Washington basketball team, so I’ve got to ask: are you willing to endorse the campaign to bring Kevin Durant to the Wizards next summer?
BB: 100 percent! I was in a long conversation over the weekend with somebody about who Durant could make any team spectacular, and I think he’d be a great fit with the Wizards. I’d be cheering him on from the sidelines… I think that he’s a game changer. I’m with it but Ted Leonsis makes the call something tells me.