CNN Tea Party Debate: The Reactions

By Alex Weprin 

CNN held its Tea Party Debate last night in Florida, kicking off with a WWE-esque, nickname-laden introduction of the contenders (roughly the first two minutes):

The New York Times examined CNN’s decision to partner with tea party groups, and spoke to CNN DC bureau chief Sam Feist about the decision:

“After the 2010 elections, it was undeniable that the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party was a force, and that it was likely to help determine the outcome of the nomination,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. “We decided that it makes sense for one of the debates to have a Tea Party connection, and that we were the right network to do it.”

Slate spoke to tea party activists about the debate:

“Being at a Tea Party rally is not quite like seeing it on TV, in newspapers or online,” Travis wrote in an April 2010 article that went viral. “That’s the reason CNN is covering this political movement—and doing so in ways few others can or choose to do.” He ran down a list of things the rest of the media was leaving out: “Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper.”

Time‘s James Poniewozik argued that while there were some good questions, CNN could have done a better job:

If anything, it would have helped had Wolf Blitzer jumped in to direct the question to the entire field—that’s 9% from Herman Cain! Do I hear 8%? Do I hear 7%? But his moderation throughout the night suffered from, well, moderation, and he missed opportunities to expand on questions, redirect or press with follow-ups. (Even though he came prepared with some good starters, like the his health-insurance question to Ron Paul​, above.) CNN won’t like to hear this, but they could have learned something from the aggressive questioning of the Fox debate some weeks ago.