Behind-the-scenes: The makings of a presidential debate

posted at 2:05 pm on November 22, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Even though it follows on the heels of 13 similar contests, tonight’s GOP debate still snags a couple of “firsts” for itself. It’s the first debate ever hosted by The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — and the first in Washington D.C. since the 1960s. Nevertheless, to anybody who tunes in to CNN at 8 p.m. ET, the event will look surprisingly familiar: CNN designed it. As, so far, the CNN debates have — aesthetically speaking — been especially impressive, that’s just one more reason to tune in.

Ordinarily, says special events producer Kate Lunger, CNN has months to prepare for a debate. But that wasn’t the case with tonight’s event. The CNN special events team had just weeks to bring together the kind of dazzling set that has come to characterize the CNN contests. Ever wondered how they do it? A camera in the hands of Heritage’s Brandon Stewart takes us behind the scenes:

It’s fun to watch the expedited construction captured in this video: If only folks really could build a background in the space of a sound bite! But I’d still argue the most important part of the vid comes midway, when Heritage president Ed Feulner reminds us that “providing for the common defense” is one of a few constitutionally-articulated purposes of the federal government — and, so, especially important for presidential candidates to address. This isn’t the first foreign policy debate the GOP candidates have faced — but the combined expertise of Heritage and AEI foreign policy scholars ensures the questions they receive tonight will be thought-provoking.

A reminder: The foreign policy crises that consumed various presidencies were never predicted (think 9/11), so leadership and decision-making skills are arguably more important to successful dealing with foreign policy than a specific plan to address current perceived threats. That is not to excuse ignorance of the current state of affairs or a lack of a specific plan — just to encourage viewers to consider concentrating on what candidates’ answers reveal about how they would deal with the unpredictable, as well as with the obvious.


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Rush says Wolfy is practicing for Newt’s possible attacks on the media…

… This should be good.

Seven Percent Solution on November 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM

7%, I was just about to mention that. It won’t help, but should make for good television.

I just don’t know if I can do another one…

Darksean on November 22, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Dang it, gonna miss it…..will have to peruse the posts later tonight

cmsinaz on November 22, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Look’n good,

O/T,meanwhile,justice?!
====================================

Judge sentences Tony Rezko, ex-fundraiser for former Illinois Governor Blagojevich, to 10 1/2 years for corruption – @AP
2 Hrs.ago
=========

More: Judge gives Tony Rezko, ex-fundraiser for Blagojevich, credit for time served – @AP
2 Hr.ago
========

http://www.breakingnews.com/

canopfor on November 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

hosted by The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute

Are they providing the moderator?

agmartin on November 22, 2011 at 2:36 PM

bet it smells like sausage…

phreshone on November 22, 2011 at 2:41 PM

canopfor on November 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

So, what’s the overunder before obama pardons him?

ConservativePartyNow on November 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM

How long before Rezko receives a presidential pardon?

shov74 on November 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Look’n good,

O/T,meanwhile,justice?!
====================================

Judge sentences Tony Rezko, ex-fundraiser for former Illinois Governor Blagojevich, to 10 1/2 years for corruption – @AP
2 Hrs.ago
=========

More: Judge gives Tony Rezko, ex-fundraiser for Blagojevich, credit for time served – @AP
2 Hr.ago
========

http://www.breakingnews.com/

canopfor on November 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Wonder how long it will take Obama to pardon him?

silvernana on November 22, 2011 at 2:49 PM

9-9-9
9-9-9
9-9-9
9-9-9

There. Just summarized Mr. Cain’s upcoming performance.

Hollowpoint on November 22, 2011 at 3:20 PM

The debates are pretty much a farce. The questions are deliberately designed to elicit controversial sound bites and to foment discord for the sole purpose of ratings for the news organizations. And who can really answer important Presidential-level questions in 60 seconds?

The Republican Party and conservative PACs should host the debates, ask real questions, allow DEBATE and then sell seats and camera space to the networks to recoup costs – if the networks care to cover it.

flicker on November 22, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Hey, I got an idea: instead of making the candidates stand for an hour (FDR would have objected), why not seat the candidates behind repros of the oval office desk — to see if they are visually suited to be President?

CNN could do up the backdrop as the inside of the Oval Office and plaster CNN everywhere. Two birds. Everyone wins. And each candidate will be given a photo of themselves behind their desks to show their grandkids when they don’t actually win.

flicker on November 22, 2011 at 3:47 PM

And while we’re on the subject of MSM coverage, why hasn’t the MSM killed off Romney yet (rhetorically speaking)? With all due respect to Ann Coulter, I think it’s that they want him to be the Republican candidate because he’ll be the easiest to beat, or the easiest to manipulate if elected.

flicker on November 22, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Hollowpoint on November 22, 2011 at 3:20 PM

You forgot ‘racist’ and all my quotes are taken out of context.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 22, 2011 at 4:01 PM

flicker on November 22, 2011 at 3:57 PM

The political issues that The Fringe Party don’t like about Romney are none issue for the normal people.

Falz on November 22, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Falz on November 22, 2011 at 4:06 PM

He’s standing by Masscare-which was the blueprint for Zerocare. I’d say that that’s a lot more than a ‘non issue’.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Actually the last CNN debate was one of the best. The last one with Scott Pelly and Jim Cramer the worst. Pelly sounded like a little whining kid complaining about too much time.

inspectorudy on November 22, 2011 at 4:14 PM

I wonder if the mods will ask the GOP candidates what the greatest threat to the Homeland is during this Thanksgiving? Well, considering it is Heritage, probably not.

DHS sent out a warning about TURKEY FYER’S!

Bwahahahahaha!!!

It’s on Drudge.

csdeven on November 22, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Foreign policy debate? Again? Really?

Let’s not focus on the things that will actually decide this election.

lorien1973 on November 22, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Not to knock this blog post, I appreciate the inside look, but I personally don’t care about the aesthetics and would be perfectly happy with a long table for the candidates to sit at and an American flag hanging in the back.

CNN has easily had the best debates so far because of the formats. The Tea Party debate actually had them answering questions a GOP primary voter would ask and the one with Anderson Cooper was very well done because he shut his mouth and let the candidates do the talking. I look forward to this debate as it focuses on Foreign Policy and is sponsored by two conservative think tanks.

CNN did have one awful debate early on where John King or whatever his name is kept grunting.

Daemonocracy on November 22, 2011 at 5:34 PM

lorien1973 on November 22, 2011 at 5:14 PM

My guess is they`re trying to push Cain out by having all these foreign policy debates, since the “sex scandal” seems to have died out as a story.

ThePrez on November 22, 2011 at 5:38 PM

@ flicker on November 22, 2011 at 3:37 PM

The networks don’t particularly want to cover that because it allows conservatives to provide a full explanation of their policies.

At the same time, the candidates do not want to work with that format.

For all the candidates’ complaining, I think that they like the soundbite format, because it permits them to avoid providing substantial answers for which they might be held accountable.

Particularly, the front-runners do not want to have to answer Tea Party inspired questions in public, on the record.

Also, the front-runners do not want to do anything that might give second-tier candidates any oxygen.

Troll Feeder on November 22, 2011 at 5:44 PM

My guess is they`re trying to push Cain out by having all these foreign policy debates, since the “sex scandal” seems to have died out as a story.

ThePrez on November 22, 2011 at 5:38 PM

If he can’t handle himself in a FP debate, then perhaps he should be pushed out?

Daemonocracy on November 22, 2011 at 5:46 PM

Particularly, the front-runners do not want to have to answer Tea Party inspired questions in public, on the record.

Troll Feeder on November 22, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Note that at the time Cain and Gingrich agreed to the Nov 5th Tea Party debate, neither was a front-runner.

Troll Feeder on November 22, 2011 at 5:48 PM

“The last CNN debate Wolf Blitzer readied a comeback of his own in case the former House speaker tore into the media, as he has done in other debates. Fortunately, Mr. Blitzer said, Mr. Gingrich held his fire. So he is saving the line in case he needs it in Tuesday night’s debate in Washington.”

The first time Newt speaks he should turn the tables and just ask Blitzer what line he would like to use in defending the media.

Goodale on November 22, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Daemonocracy on November 22, 2011 at 5:46 PM

his unwillingness to fire Mark Block and his willingness to play the race card and act the victim should have gotten him pushed out weeks ago.

annoyinglittletwerp on November 22, 2011 at 5:59 PM