CNBC has probably changed GOP presidential campaign debates forever

During the third GOP debate, candidates got feisty with the CNBC moderators. They took aim at the questions asked, at the “mainstream media” and at the moderators interrupting their answers. (Victoria M. Walker/The Washington Post)

Predictions are dangerous things. That said, here’s a prediction for you: John Harwood will never again participate in a GOP debate. Republicans are beyond angry about the conduct of the CNBC moderators — Harwood, Carl Quintanilla and Becky Quick — during Wednesday night’s primary debate. Actually, more than one Republican asked me before the debate what I thought of Harwood as a moderator. I’ve known John for forever and I admit to breaking out in a mild cold sweat whenever I was told he was holding on the phone. But I thought of him as a mostly fair-minded, smart reporter, even if I’ve also always thought of him as “one of them” as far as Republican thinking goes. Generally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having an adversarial group of moderators ask good questions. But the moderators’ approach to this debate was beyond properly adversarial and was probably a game-changer in more ways than one. After every election, the parties tweak the debate process and change the rules to one degree or another. You can bet the old paradigm of turning over management of the debates to a specific media organization — especially one with a reputation for an anti-Republican bias — is going to end.