Although the panel of neutral observers I spoke to Thursday after the Republican presidential debate offered varied views of which candidate gained and lost ground, it was debate sponsor CNN and the three-hour forum itself that drew the worst reviews.
Almost to a person, the observers — pundits, political consultants, and a pollster and a historian, who are not aligned with any candidate — panned the questions, format, and time management of the debate.
“The debate was too long, too uneven in terms of time between candidate’s being questioned, and there was too much emphasis placed on Trump,” concluded G. Terry Madonna, political science professor at Franklin and Marshall University (Penn.) and widely regarded as his state’s premier pollster.
Madonna told me that “there was too much emphasis on foreign policy and cultural issues and they didn’t never asked anything about police brutality or income inequality.”
“CNN was the loser,” agreed Howard Kaloogian, national chairman of the Tea Party Express, “Their moderators where not in control, and asked questions that were poorly presented. At one point, they claimed the Republican audience was demanding a discussion of global warming.
“They wanted a food fight worthy of what they think of talk radio ranting instead of an issue oriented long format news making deliberation.
“I think everyone will probably agree on at least this much: three hours is too long.”
Using a term conservatives often use to mock CNN, the “Free Press’” Henry Payne, columnist for the “Detroit News,” said the “Clinton News Network concentrated the first hour on it liberal tics: foreign policy, abortion, and immigration, while ignoring the issues most on Americans' minds: A stalled economy and rising crime rates.
“As for the next debate in October, all I can say is thank goodness it won’t be on CNN!”
There was disagreement among the group about how the next GOP debate (scheduled for Oct. 28) can be improved.
“Rand Paul no longer seems a factor and may find himself shelved to the 5 p.m. show next time out,” said historian David Pietrusza, author of four books on presidential election years, “The main field certainly needs to be winnowed — and sooner better than later. The more manageable field of four candidates at 5:00 p.m. was actually easier to watch than this tedious 'gang of 11’ marathon.”
Kathie Obradovich, political writer for the “Des Moines Register,” had a different approach. “If I had to predict a change in format,” she told me, “my guess is the undercard debate will disappear.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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