Green Room

The town hall debate will favor Obama

posted at 11:32 am on October 16, 2012 by

Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center penned an analysis today, which detailed how liberal questions are favored in such debates by a 2-to-1 margin.  The MRC has analyzed every townhall style debate since it debuted twenty years ago.  Noyes wrote that:

In the 1992 Bush-Clinton-Perot debate in Richmond, we scored eight audience questions as straightforward requests for information, four liberal questions, and no conservative questions. One participant that year described the election as about choosing a father who would take care of citizens, whom he referred to as “children.”

The focus of my work as a domestic mediator is meeting the needs of the children that I work with, by way of their parents, and not the wants of their parents. And I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the two of you, the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it, as opposed to the wants of your political spin doctors and your political parties?

Four years later, we tallied ten questions as straightforward, five as conveying a liberal agenda, and three as conservative. That year, one voter asked Bill Clinton whether he had “plans to expand the Family Leave Act,” while another insisted during a discussion of health care that “the private sector is a problem.”

In 2000, moderator Jim Lehrer favored liberal questions by an 8-to-2 margin over conservative questions. Examples from that debate: One voter asked George W. Bush and Al Gore: “Would you be open to the ideal of a national health care plan for everybody?” while another targeted Bush:

We’d like to know why you object to the Brady handgun bill, if you do object to it. Because in a recent TV ad, it showed that the [NRA] says if you are elected that they will be working out of your office…actually, that kind of bothers me.

However, there is one notable exception Noyes detailed, which is that Charles Gibson was able to strike a balance in the debate during the 2004 presidential election.  He mentioned a question addressed to Democratic candidate John Kerry about health care where the participant asked “you’ve stated your concern for the rising cost of health care, yet you chose a vice presidential candidate  [Sen. John Edwards] who has made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals. How do you reconcile this with the voters?”

Hence, it is possible, according to Noyes, for “a moderator… to ensure an ideologically balanced discussion of the issues — to serve all of the potential voters who might be watching. It’s up to Crowley to determine whether the candidates will face equally tough questioning, or whether the liberal Barack Obama will face a friendlier agenda than Mitt Romney.”

Will Obama blow it?  Will Mitt Romney’s surge in the polls become a temporary phenomena?  We shall see in tonight’s debate, but we should’t be counting on a replay for a Gibson-style town hall debate.  Crowley described the Romney/Ryan ticket as a “death wish” back in August.  Even if Obama does slightly better, and that’s saying something after his flaccid performance on October 3, then it will be construed as a victory for the president.  Romney needs to have another decisive win tonight.  And given his performance in the last debate – with the litany of facts detailing the failure of the Obama administration – I’m confident he’ll succeed, regardless of the probable drivel that’ll be hurled at him tonight.

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Hopefully, President Bro’Bama has some cool liters of Evian available for the first handful of totally-not plants who swoon in his majestic presence.

Jeddite on October 16, 2012 at 11:44 AM

The fact that the questions could likely wind up being skewed in a liberal direction may be something to complain to the Commission on Presidential Debates or Candy Crowley about. But if it happens, it’s not an excuse for Mitt to not be able to answer the questions. If Mitt becomes president, he is going to have to spend his term answering questions from reporters, and many of those questions will be skewed in a liberal direction. It’s Mitt’s responsibility to be able to answer questions even if those questions come from a liberal perspective.

J.S.K. on October 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM

This is not news.
So why do republicans constantly put up with this garbage?

4 debates.
Name the conservative moderators.

Charlie Brown/Lucy/Football

Why?

Mimzey on October 16, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Is this preparing the ground for awkward questions or crappy answers? What a load of nonsense.

It’s up to the candidate to come up with good responses. There are conservative answers. If you are nit picking over the questions you are weak and pathetic.

I just hope the questions are pertinent to the job rather than fluffy BS about whether the candidate like sausage or pepperoni on his pizza.

lexhamfox on October 16, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Matt-
Hopey will go into the weeds making his point and will not answer ANY question directly. People don’t want the mini speeches he will give and tune him out. Candy will not corral him either.

Mitt will have to spin out of the gotcha- no right answer – questions as well. He just doesn’t drone on as much.

FlaMurph on October 16, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Accomplishing more death than the Drancy concentration camps could have ever managed.

Genocide, suicide – - is there much of a difference?

DarthBrooks on October 16, 2012 at 5:56 PM

Oops -wrong thread.

DarthBrooks on October 16, 2012 at 5:56 PM

if you are nit picking over the questions you are weak and pathetic.

I just hope the questions are pertinent to the job rather than fluffy BS about whether the candidate like sausage or pepperoni on his pizza.

lexhamfox on October 16, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Not nit picking at all – just saying there is a bias in the selection of the questions when it’ s entirely avoidable. and the questions do matter – it’s how the media builds their narrative and provides them with the soundbite to skew the news

Matt Vespa on October 16, 2012 at 6:35 PM

How can a straight policy question be biased? Even if a question came up about policy and the question included a hint that there was a contradiction between the candidates policy and someone he has working on the policy such as this one cited:

“You’ve stated your concern for the rising cost of health care, yet you chose a vice presidential candidate who has made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals. How do you reconcile this with the voters?”

To my mind that provides an opening for the candidate to resolve the apparent contradiction and deal with the issue raised by the question.

My point is that any question… even a pointed one, is an opportunity for any candidate. Romney has more to gain by fielding pointed questions than softball light probing about what makes him proud about America, especially with independents and centrists he needs to win the election.

It’s the quality of the answer that matters.

lexhamfox on October 16, 2012 at 8:48 PM