36 hours after the CNN debate and the conventional wisdom has settled into concrete: Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney had the best nights. As Politico’s John Harris noted on my show yesterday, it is the after-game agreements that matter and in this case the pundit consensus had Bachmann and Romney as the “winners.”. None of the candidates was hurt, except Ron Paul who added to the case for tossing him from the stage.
John King tooks his lumps, but the format cannot be hung on him or the lousy time restrictions that had him grunting like Al Gore in 2000 in an effort to act as a time keeper. Why can’t television folk remember that he best “debate” in 2008 wasn’t a debate at all, but Rick Warren’s conversations with then candidates McCain and Obama. Audiences want to hear what the serious candidates have to say, and Republican primary voters in particular want to hear who makes the best case for defeating the president. The CNN format was constructed to frustrate that end and thus succeeded mostly in hammering down CNN’s reputation as the second most pro-Obama network. (Of course NBC gets the gold in that event, and still shouldn’t be let anywhere near the controls of a GOP debate.)
The question set was also thin and predictable. Two examples of questions that, if asked and enough time allowed, would have illuminated much:
Republican senators recently filibustered one of President Obama’s nominees for a very senior judgeship, Professor Gordan Liu of Berkeley Law School. Many of these same senators and most Republicans denounced such filibusters when they were directed at the nominees of President Bush for the courts. The Republicans say there can’t be a 50 vote standard for Democratic nominees and a 60 vote standard for Republicans. What do you think the standard should be, and do you think the Constitution says anything on the subject?
At a debate in South Carolina, Governor Pawlenty blasted the National labor Relations Board for filing a complaint against Boeing for opening a new plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, and not in Washington State. That matters gets underway in front of an administrative judge tomorrow. Shouldn’t organized labor have the protections of the law and the agencies charged with protecting those rights vigorous in bringing such actions?
Questions like these require hosts and producers who aren’t afraid of a bit of complexity and who are also aware of what drives the conservative electorate. They will never get asked by MSMers who want to know for the 1000th time what the candidates think about abortion. Still waiting for Chairman Priebus to announce his RNC debate schedule….