Republican candidates debating at the Reagan Presidential Library will face a much quieter audience than they experienced in Cleveland, which could cause problems for Donald Trump and others who draw their energy from a cheering crowd.
"It’s not just an arena; it’s not just a big theater," Matt Beynon, a longtime aide for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who will be on the CNN debate undercard Wednesday night, told Politico
. "Nancy Reagan’s going to be sitting right there. It’s a very serious setting."
In the first debate, held at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, attracted an audience of 4,500 rank-and-file Republicans whose cheers and laughs were a perfect counterpart for a candidate like Trump, who has said some of his comments are made as an "entertainer."
But Wednesday's crowd will consist more of party leaders and pundits who won't be loudly cheering and laughing like the more raucous crowd in Cleveland which in addition to spurring on Trump also boosted Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who enjoyed a warm reception from his hometown crowd and Dr. Ben Carson, whose quiet jokes brought applause and laughter.
The quieter crowd, though, could help some of the candidates who are more used to small crowds, an unnamed aide to one of the candidates told Politico, as some of the candidates are senators who "often give floor speeches with no audience and still need to deliver punchlines and cadence. It's also tougher for those who speak in generalities and expect an applause line but might not get it in this audience."
Only Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are former presidential candidates who have debated at the Reagan Library before, and Beynon said the more intimate atmosphere might intimidate candidates who have not spoken at the library before.
Meanwhile, candidates in the earlier debate in Cleveland complained about the lack of a crowd for their segment, and the quiet led to awkward appearances by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who last week became the first candidate to bow out of the 2016 race.
But former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose turn on the early stage last time has boosted her polling numbers and pushed her onto the main stage for Wednesday's debate, may benefit from having already played to a quieter audience, sources told Politico.
Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf, though, said that the governor plans to use the same approach in Wednesday's debate as he used in Cleveland.
"What you say is always not geared to the people in the room, but it’s geared to the 23 million people watching on TV," said Schrimpf. "I don’t think it changes anything we say, how he approaches any answer that he gives...if you’re a good candidate, you don’t need instant reaction from the audience to know if you did a good job."
Watch Newsmax TV GOP Debate Special starting tonight at 10 pm ET with exclusive commentary and analysis from Dr Ben Carson, Michael Reagan and Dick Morris.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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