Kevin Price
The importance of the debate controversy
By Kevin Price
November 9, 2015

There was one particularly bright and shining moment during the recent CNBC GOP debate. It was that moment when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas exposed the depth and breadth of the media's agenda to make the Republican race for the White House into a circus. The Senator moved up in the polls and the pundits on both the left and right acknowledged he was the stand out in the debate. The media itself became critical of CNBC as it did appear to be more interested in creating drama than meaningful dialogue to help voters understand the candidates' positions on the issues.

Early on there was general consensus among Republican candidates that the media needed to get in line and the voters – as well as the candidates – deserved to hear a substantial debate on today's issues. In fact, during the debate, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey joined in on the media criticism, pointing out how odd it was to discuss online betting in a world suffering from global terrorism and a nation dealing with a near $20 trillion debt. By the end of the CNBC debate, it became pretty clear that the candidates had enough with the debacle and was ready to establish new guidelines going forward for future events. Furthermore, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus ended the party's partnership with CNBC for future debates towards the 2016 elections. However, in the last week, things have certainly changed.

In their anger over the CNBC debate, GOP candidates were ready to sign a joint letter demanding a "better way" going forward. The numbers that are supporting such a proposition are shrinking precipitously.

The Huffington Post reports "Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina made it clear Monday night they will not sign a joint letter to TV networks outlining conditions for their participation in upcoming Republican debates. Their decisions followed an announcement from Donald Trump's campaign Monday afternoon that the business mogul turned presidential candidate would negotiate independently with the TV networks hosting the debates."

So what happened to the GOP revolt? Reality has finally settled in as those with campaigns that are on life support began to realize they need all the cheap (or even free) exposure they can get. Let's see, a bakery in Manchester, New Hampshire or a major television audience was the possibility of millions of viewers? Or how about a church on Sunday morning in Des Moines, Iowa or a major television network audience. For those campaigns on the brink of oblivion, the choice of playing and staying is obvious. However, it is also clear that the rank and file Republicans have had it with the media and consider it the enemy, and aligned to the Democrats themselves. Based on the temperament of average Republicans, fighting the media is about as sexy as it gets. Two of the biggest critics of the media in the GOP race – Trump and Carson – have thrived under the scrutiny and criticism of the press. The harsher the reviews, the better their numbers. The rise of Cruz is also linked to his recent and articulate attacks on the press.

This creates a Catch – 22 for the minor league candidates that continue to flounder in the single digits – be critical of the media and potentially lose your opportunity to grow your audience or maintain a hard line and fall off the radar screen altogether as an also ran.

It appears some of these minor candidates have made their decision. Chris Christie, who was among the most critical of the media, has now said "Whatever debate they set up, I'll show up and I'll answer the questions that get asked, If I think it's a dumb question like the other night on fantasy football, I'll say it's a dumb question. I'm not worried about this nearly as much as the other guys."

Meanwhile, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio seems to be dismissing the incident altogether,stating "I haven't really given it any thought. That's all process. Other people think about that, I don't." It is no surprise that Kasich does not get the public zeitgeist as he is one of the most tone deaf of all the candidates. He continues to cite his career politician credentials in an era where Rank Paul (of Kentucky), who has only been in political office since 2011, is considered "too experienced" for the job among today's skeptical GOP voters.

Donald Trump has been calling for minor GOP candidates to call it quits in order to make the choices clearer for voters. The decision of these candidates on how they will deal with the media might have much to do with how much longer they will be around.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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