Thursday, September 8, 2011

Who won the GOP debate? Does it matter? And did MSNBC try to influence the outcome?

Perry makes a point during the debate
Let the voters decide!
Why was it so important to MSNBC to determine for Republicans who the front runner candidates were before the debate last night?
And why did moderators  Brian Williams and John F. Harris work so hard to pit Republican vs Republican. Getting them to spar with each other by asking them to contrast their accomplishments against each others?
It was clear from the start that the most fast time was going to go to Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Because, I suppose, the polls show them as the top GOP contenders. Now.
The best zing actually came from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Who was awarded with thunderous applause when he blasted the MSNBC’s Williams and Politico’s Harris for trying to make this a fight between GOP candidates. Rather than a debate about who could best toppled President Obama.
Of course, it was a debate between GOP candidates. But perhaps many potential Republican primary voters would have liked to hear more about how each would run the federal government in contrast with Obama, rather than in contrast with each other.
The bias of debate was perhaps best illustrated by the questions asked about health care. Somehow, the moderators failed to toss a question about that at Ron Paul. Who, Paul later reminded them, was the only medical doctor on the stage.
It may be easy to ignore the “other” candidates in such a large field when the polls place two substantially in front of the rest. But journalism isn’t supposed to be easy. There’s a responsibility to bring as much information as possible to the public about each candidate and issue as possible.
This tendency to spotlight Perry and Romney in a way that casts their shadows on the other candidates may, in hindsight, turn out to be a mistake. As Rudy Giuliani pointed out last night on CNN’s Piers Morgan show, this time during the last presidential election cycle, he was the GOP front runner. And Hillary Clinton led the Democratic field in the polls. And we all know how that worked out for them now, don’t we?

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