As we mentioned previously, NBC News and Politico have teamed up for the first Republican debate set for sometime in Spring 2011. However, a growing chorus of conservative concern over the hosts and timing of this event have begun to pop up around the internet.
The Daily Caller reports:
Some conservatives, however, are not happy with the idea of what they view as two left-of-center media outlets hosting a Republican debate.
Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, in fact, penned a widely-circulated column in which he told probable GOP candidates to “just say no to Nancy Reagan”.
“Can we be honest? They are all liberals. All of them. Not one of the questioners that could or would be proposed by Politico or NBC would be remotely in touch with the cares, concerns, and passions of the GOP’s primary electorate,” wrote Hewitt.
When contacted by TheDC, Hewitt reiterated that sentiment, saying that the problem with NBC and Politico hosting a debate is that the panel of moderators would likely be typical, inside-the-Beltway journalists. Not only that, but the spring of2011 is just too early for a presidential debate.
“The first Republican presidential debate should be at the Reagan Library, but not until the fall of 2011,” Hewitt told TheDC. “And the panelists should be non-usual suspects…the key is getting new voices that are not the usual suspects.”
Now, a wave of conservative displeasure with the proposed debate is rising.
Charles Krauthammer, conservative commentator and Washington Post columnist, spoke out against the debate on Hewitt’s radio program.
“You know, here’s where I think you really need some kind of leadership. Either it’s the RNC chairman or some other Democrat, the Republican candidates themselves, or maybe some of the old, wise men in the Congress who should say there should be no debates until, say, the first of September or the first of August,” said Krauthammer. “It’s much too early to have fights.”
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is also expected to run for president in 2012, told TheDC that though he was perplexed by the announcement, Republican candidates should still participate.
“I am curious who decided that was the first debate,” Gingrich told TheDC. “Any two candidates could create a first debate. The Tea Parties could create a first debate.”
“However I would hope that whenever it is held, the announced candidates would go to the Reagan library no matter who is covering it,” he added.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels also appeared on Hewitt’s show, saying that as someone who might be considering a presidential run, he too, thought spring 2011 was too early.” Well, it would be too early for me, I’ll tell you that both as someone who might think about it, but just also as a citizen,” said Daniels.
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform told the DC that if he had his way, the Republican primary debates would be hosted by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the media would be invited guests.
“All the debates should be open to the media, but they should be held for the purpose of letting Republicans explain to Republicans why they should vote for them in the primary,” said Norquist, “Instead, we’ll get nitpicking from left-of-center journalists asking questions that will impress their fellow journalists.”
“The first three debates ought to be run by the RNC…or hosted by a governor who’s not running,” added Norquist. “I’m not interested in the kind of questions a pundit would ask…Why would we let someone who doesn’t have anything to do with the process ask the questions?”
I don’t blame them for criticism considering the very early timing of this debate and the lack of objectivity provided by most media outlets during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, no exception for NBC News. No doubt there will be a GOP debate hosted by Tea Party groups and every potential candidate will attend. However, given the wave of anti-establishment feelings in 2010, it is not out of the question to watch GOP candidates take a more proactive role in 2011 deciding who and when they will allow to run these debates.
Assuming this NBC/Politico debate will be held in the spring, and I’m sure it will, we could see a couple candidates forgo this first debate in favor of waiting for a more widely accepted host in conservative circles. Still, I’m betting the majority of those who have announced their candidacies will show up. Thinking back to the 2008 cycle we watched former Senator Fred Thompson wait all summer of 2007 and into the fall before he announced his candidacy. This seemed to hurt him the end given that the other candidates had done a few debates and had some momentum going already.