Via MRC TV, he’s gone full Huntsman. You never go full Huntsman.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 29, 2015
Trump’s averaging close to 27 percent in national polls. Ben Carson’s averaging 22 percent. John Kasich, who’s averaging 2.6 percent, got more speaking time than either of them at a moment when Jeb’s base is looking around for a centrist alternative. It was a gift to his struggling campaign. And it’s no mystery why that gift was given. As the Huntsman-esque “Republican who hates Republicans” in the race, CNBC wanted to offer him as much time as possible to reprise this freakout from a few days ago in front of a national audience. A not-very-political friend who watched the debate told me later she was struck by how much easier the moderators seemed to go on Kasich than they did on the rest of the field. Of course he thought they did a good job. He was their favorite and it showed, even to people who don’t follow the news closely.
But don’t let this guy get you down. Last night, amid a million complaints on Twitter from all sides about the moderators, I wrote, “Tonight’s the night the rest of the media learned that media bias is real.” I wasn’t exaggerating. Katie Pavlich, who was on the scene in Boulder, tweeted back that it was clear lots of media types in the hall were irritated. Some lefties through gritted teeth agreed that Ted Cruz’s attack on the panel was spot on while reporters attacked the panel for their poor debate prep or stupid, trivial questions. It was a fiasco and no one, besides John Kasich, really bothered to deny it:
Biggest loser of this debate isn't JEB. It's MSM.
We've earned this bashing
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) October 29, 2015
So what now? Ben Carson’s campaign says that change is coming:
In an interview shortly after the debate, Barry Bennett, manager of the Ben Carson campaign, called the session here in Colorado “unfair to everyone” and said the current debate structure should not remain in place. “I think the families need to get together here, because these debates as structured by the RNC are not helping the party,” Bennett said. “There’s not enough time to talk about your plans, there’s no presentation. It’s just a slugfest. All we do is change moderators. And the trendline is horrific. So I think there needs to be wholesale change here.”
Bennett said he will call Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski Thursday to propose a unified call for change. “Corey and I talk regularly, so I will talk to him,” Bennett said. “I will call Frank Sadler (Carly Fiorina’s campaign manager), I will call those guys and say listen, we can choose our own network and our own format. We don’t need to be led around like prize steers.”
Does that mean adding debates or overhauling the debates that are currently scheduled? Presumably it’s the latter since Trump and Carson, as the current frontrunners, want to minimize their exposure to potentially game-changing attacks by Rubio and Cruz in front of the cameras. The RNC’s rules also provide that a candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate may be penalized by taking away some of their delegates, but I’d like to see them threaten to strip, say, Ben Carson of his winnings in Iowa if he goes on to take the caucuses in February. Imagine how that would play with the GOP rank-and-file at a moment when two outsiders are leading the field in a populist revolt against the establishment. I think what’ll happen here, provided that Carson’s campaign means business about these changes, is adding a conservative journalist or two to each moderator panel going forward and maybe shrinking the number of candidates somehow so that each gets more speaking time. Yesterday I suggested splitting them into two groups of five for the next debate, with the single-digit candidates receiving 90 minutes starting at 7 p.m. and then the big boys getting two hours at 8:30. Three and a half hours of debate is a stretch, but the CNN debate was long too and mixing up the candidates halfway through will refreshen the audience. If you want longer, more substantive exchanges, the only way to do it realistically is to reduce the number of candidates.
Exit question: This guy couldn’t possibly be biased, could he?
moderating GOP debate in 2015 enriched my understanding of challenges @SpeakerBoehner has faced and @RepPaulRyan will face
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 29, 2015