Fox Business debate moderators plan to get aggressive
For the first time in the 2016 election cycle, the same team of debate moderators will get a second shot to question the Republican presidential candidates.
Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo will once again take the stage Thursday night, this time without Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker, to question a smaller group of candidates just a couple of weeks before the first primary states begin casting their ballots. While their first go-round was considered a successful first presidential debate for the business network, the moderators took a safer approach to questioning after a raucous and chaotic CNBC debate. In this second go-round, the seasoned moderators said in separate interviews that they plan to be more aggressive by not only broadening the topics to include such issues as gun control and immigration, but also by working harder to get the candidates off their talking points and actually answering their questions.
“Last time, we let it breathe in terms of making sure the candidates talked to each other and had an open dialogue,” said Bartiromo, adding that their goal was to make sure they heard each candidate’s plan.
This time, Bartiromo said, she and Cavuto will be better prepared, with a stricter list of “must ask” questions.
“There’s only a finite amount of time, so at the end of the last debate, and we had two hours, a lot of questions ended up on the cutting room floor. So this time around what we need to do is to make sure which questions are most important and which questions we’re married to, because this will happen again. You want to be able to have that type of dialogue; you want to be able to have the liberty and pushing back and making sure your question gets answered,” she said.
During commercial breaks, Bartiromo and Cavuto (as well as early debate hosts Trish Regan and Sandra Smith) will, in conjunction with Facebook, post videos about what they’re doing behind the scenes.
Cavuto said he hopes to knock the candidates off their talking points, which he said don’t help voters.
“I think when you can pin a candidate down — ‘Are you against any type of gun control at all, would you restrict guns or background checks at all in any area?’ — you hope to get some answers to crystallize where they’re coming from,” Cavuto said. “Candidates’ positions evolve; we’re all human, we change our minds over the course of time. You see this in candidates who were pro-choice who become pro-life or vice versa. You like to analyze how that happened and get specifics as to why that happened and hold them accountable.”
The candidates can expect to see questions on gun control, immigration, terrorism, national security and other issues that have dominated the campaign trail, from Donald Trump’s attacks on Ted Cruz’s eligibility to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.
“That’s what I’m talking about, peeling back the onion at this stage in the game. At this stage in the game after six debates, we really should walk away from this debate with a clear idea of where these candidates are, how they voted on certain issues in the past and what their proposals are,” Bartiromo said.
And Cavuto has a message for Sen. Rand Paul, who has announced he will skip the debate entirely unless he’s on the main stage: The invite is always out there.
“This is huge, a lot of people watching, and I think that’s an audience who will find your message very compelling,” Cavuto said, adding that he finds Paul to be a good and effective debater. “I don’t think you ever turn your back on what could be a very good venue.”
The undercard debate is at 6 p.m. Eastern time, and the main stage debate at 9, both on Fox Business Network.