The downside? Nobody was paying attention.
And that’s why the forum neatly explained the 2016 race. It lasted more than five hours, the crowd was tame and the candidates — many of whom have struggled to break through — spent the entirety of the session in a collegial back-and-forth discussion of vital, if mundane policy proposals that polls suggest most voters don’t care a lick about.
“I’m a wonk. I believe in policy. I believe in ideas,” said Jeb Bush, who shared the stage with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also bragged about his background in legislating, telling the audience that he was “involved in writing the first set of welfare” reform.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who moderated the conversations with South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, agreed that the event was a breath of fresh air from the 2016 campaign trail.
“Most of the candidates said that to me, ‘This is great, this is better. We have more than 30 seconds so we can actually talk about an issue and get out there and discuss these things,’” Ryan said in an interview after the event. “I gotta think some of these reporters that just track these guys every day. It was probably a break for the press, too.”