• CNN Vs. Fox News: Who Did It Better?

    CNN’s Jake Tapper took an approach to moderating the second GOP debate that contrasted sharply with that of Fox News in the first debate: pit the candidates against each other.

    The strategy, albeit unorthodox and interesting, produced questionable results.

    Tapper said the goal was to inspire back and forth between candidates “where they disagree — on policy, on politics, on leadership,” but the questions seemed to lead more to bickering or recitation of talking points than to meaningful debate.

    Fox News moderators, on the other hand, asked pointed, direct questions that forced the candidates to defend themselves, rather than attack their opponents. Viewers could see how they responded when their greatest weaknesses were exposed and pressed on under a national spotlight.

    Here’s a closer look at how each outlet approached the debate in terms of questions and topics.

    Most of the CNN questions instructed the candidates to talk about other candidates positions and statements, often commanding them to address that candidate directly. They were rarely given questions that asked them to speak directly about their position.

    Some of the questions were a bit hard to follow, because they required an explanation of past positions and comments. Others essentially instructed the candidate to react to a past attack or insult. In either case, the candidates were allowed a good amount of wiggle room and could choose whether or not to take the bait.

    • “Tell Gov. [Jeb] Bush why you are a serious candidate, and what your qualifications are to be commander-in-chief,” Tapper instructed Carly Fiorina.
    • “Governor Christie, we just marked the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,” Tapper said. “Now Dr. [Ben] Carson has said that if he had been president at the time, the United States would not have gone to war in Afghanistan. What does that say to you about how Dr. Carson would respond as president if America were attacked again?”
    • “Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?” Tapper asked Fiorina.

    • “In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you,” Tapper told Fiorina. “Quote: ‘Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?’ Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.”
    • “Mr. Trump has suggested that your views on immigration are influenced by your Mexican born wife,” Tapper told Bush. “[Trump] said that, quote: ‘If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico. Did Mr. Trump go too far in invoking your wife?”

    Fox News, by contrast, questioned candidate’s about their own record in a way that left less wiggle room, and encouraged them to defend their record rather than attack someone else’s record. Their stated goal was to make the candidates answer “the questions you want answered.”

    • “If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?” Megyn Kelly asked Sen. Marco Rubio.
    • “You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees,” Kelly told Trump. “Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”
    • “Fifteen years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care,” Bret Baier told Trump. “You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?”
    • “You have promised four percent economic growth and 19 million new jobs if you are fortunate enough to serve two terms as president,” Chris Wallace told Bush. “That many jobs, 19 million, would be triple what your father and your brother accomplished together. And four percent growth, the last president to average that was Lyndon Johnson during the height of the Vietnam War. So question, how on Earth specifically would you pull that off?”
    • “You defended your Medicaid expansion by invoking God, saying to skeptics that when they arrive in heaven, Saint Peter isn’t going to ask them how small they’ve kept government, but what they have done for the poor,” Kelly told Gov. John Kasich. “Why should Republican voters, who generally want to shrink government, believe that you won’t use your Saint Peter rationale to expand every government program?”

    Which method was more successful is of course up for debate. Fox News was criticized for too aggressive and unfair, while CNN was criticized for inciting sophomoric bickering.

    “Hate to say it but Fox did better job with debate,” Democratic operative David Rothkopf tweeted Wednesday. “CNN looks like it will be one of the big losers tonight (substantively).”

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