The panel of moderators from last night’s Republican Presidential primary debate on Fox News drew high praise from TV critics and political observers for their handling of the debate. FNC anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace in particular were called out for their performances. Among the comments:
From the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza:
Fox moderators: Yes, they — well, Chris Wallace — became part of the debate, which is usually not a good thing. But, Wallace and Bret Baier in particular were willing to pose questions that forced candidates to address their major weakenesses in the race and — perish the thought! — occasionally divert from their talking points. Yes, debates are about the candidates. But, when the candidates are doing everything they can avoid answering any/every question, you need moderators willing to mix it up. And the Fox folks were.
The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik:
I cannot remember seeing a moderator this side of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer who opened a debate with a more focused, well-researched barrage of questions than Baier. He set the bar high for every moderator who follows this presidential season, and every other sponsoring group and network better be careful about letting someone who is over the hill, lazy or living off his or her looks moderate a future debate. They are going to be judged against Baier and found wanting.
As for Wallace, he immediately managed to get the candidates talking to and arguing among themselves — and that friction generated some of the best, unscripted insights into who these candidates are and what they stand for.
Time‘s James Poniewozik:
Gotcha’s in the eye of the beholder, but at a minimum the debate far outclassed the previous CNN-hosted debate, with its inane “This or That” round asking the candidates to choose between Coke and Pepsi or whatnot. (I very much look forward to the “Boff, Marry, Kill” round in CNN’s next presidential debate.) Fox assumed, rightly, that its audience tuned in to watch a 2012 Presidential debate in August 2011, and thus was interested enough not to need things jazzed up for them.
Politico’s Keach Hagey:
Instead of providing a platform from which candidates could complain about the bias of the mainstream media – a role the channel often played during the 2010 election cycle — Fox News came across as a robust part of that mainstream media.
National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg:
Not only has Fox News — the supposed mouthpiece of the GOP — put on a far, far, far better debate than CNN did (or MSNBC could), it has subjected the GOP contenders to tougher, rougher, questions than any debate I can remember.