There were aspects of the moderation in last night’s debate that were a substantial improvement on the MSM norm. Too often, networks like CNN express their terror at being accused of bias by focusing on horserace trivia that nobody but the journalists themselves care about. (You’ll notice that audience questions may or may not be well-informed, but they virtually never ask about that crap.) Last night the moderators generally focused on substantive policy questions, or personal questions that were clearly relevant (like Trump’s sexism.)
There was one major flaw, though. They took an obvious dive for several candidates, most egregiously for Rubio:
Rubio wasn’t so much thrown softballs as he was given softballs set up on a tee with 10 strikes and the defensive team told to leave the field. (When Kelly asked the last question, I expected her to ask Rubio his position on motherhood and apple pie too.)
The questioning, in other words, was much less fair than it might have seemed on the surface. Donald Trump, who isn’t going to win the nomination but has a toxic effect on the party as long as he’s in the race, was treated to a brutal inquisition. Rubio, who is arguably the most appealing general election candidate in the field but whose campaign is floundering, was thrown one life preserver after another. John Kasich and Jeb Bush were also treated more gently than the other candidates.
In other words, as Ed Kilgore noticed last night, the candidates who Republican elites would most like to see get traction were given much easier questions than the candidates Republican elites would prefer pack up and go away. Ultimately, Fox News gotta Fox News.