Ahead of Thursday night’s Fox News Republican presidential debate, co-moderator Chris Wallace hoped for a serious debate free of bullying, showboating and schoolyard taunts.
“I certainly hope this will be a bit more elevated and they actually talk about their various plans and what they would do for voters,” Wallace told Politico. But he knew there was a chance it would all go so very, very wrong. “You can’t save them from themselves.”
And that’s pretty much exactly what happened. As The Economist put it, a policy debate wasn’t meant to be. “(It) descended into an undignified brawl between angry men.”
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson noted that “a lot got lost in the shouting.”
The drama that surrounded the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Kelly since the first GOP debate came and went without much fanfare. “Viewers were somewhat interested in seeing whether Megyn Kelly would be tough or easy on Trump,” writes Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist. “Spoiler: She was tough. The two exchanged pleasantries and then Kelly calmly did her job — and did it well.”
Beyond the on-stage attacks, Fox News produced a debate that forced the candidates to address inconsistencies and explain their policies–in detail. In particular, as The Washington Post notes, “Trump was under sustained grilling–from Rubio, Cruz and the Fox moderators–like never before, as the debate audience cheered on the attacks.”
And, there were those graphics, with Chris Wallace calling for full screens like a prosecutor asking evidence to be marked as state’s exhibit A:
The Fox News moderators came prepared with questions that seemed to be written with Trump’s expected answers in mind, along with full-screen graphics showing that Trump’s proposed budget cuts would not yield nearly as much money as he has promised.
As Henry Gomez writes at The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the debate “capped the newsiest–and noisiest–day yet on the campaign trail.”