I liked the CNN debate. I thought it ran out of energy. Everyone else I talked to said the same. We all guessed it was being on Pacific time for a bunch of east coasters. When Wolf Blitzer said, “We’re just getting started,” 30 minutes before the end, there were audible groans in the media center.
But CNN did a good debate. Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash handled themselves very, very well. Their questions were substantive and they kept their promise to make it a national security/foreign policy debate. They should be proud.
There is, however, one thing they should have done differently. The Fox Business debate has become the gold standard for debates and what Fox Business did that worked so well is they did not set up questions for controversy or play candidates off each other. They showed that the combat and fights happen organically. When that happens, the moderators come across as honest brokers steering a discussion, not people trying to set up fights.
Multiple times, the moderators asked candidates about what other candidate said about them. The refrain “Mr. Trump said” came up repeatedly. I think they should have done that differently. They’d have arrived where they wanted. The Fox Business debate showed that. But they would have done so without people being able to say CNN was provoking fights.
Still, that was it. CNN handled themselves well. I have a lot of friends over there and I was proud for them.