The end of the road is near for Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican nomination. Fox News is treating the debate this week as if it were the final chance for everyone else.
“It’s crunch time for them,” Dana Perino of Fox News said to HEADLINESFOREVER before Wednesday’s debate. “They have backers and donors who are hoping for a breakthrough performance.”
More time was spent criticising Democratic Vice President Joe Biden than the Republican frontrunner during the first debate in August. Perino claims they may have to attack Trump if they want to do well on the California stage.
Joe Biden is universally admired. If you want to make a splash, it’s not by criticising the sitting president. When asked why she should vote for her, Perino replied, “It’s about how you think you would be a better president than the one we have now or the one we’ve had before that is running again.
Trump will not be available to deflect blows from his opponents. To address over 500 union employees from various trades, including striking autoworkers, the former president will skip the second debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California to hold his own rally in Detroit.
After skipping the first debate to conduct an interview with former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, Trump’s decision to skip this one is not surprising. Board members and advisors of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute compared Trump to Voldemort and called him a “spoiled brat in the sandbox” just days before the event.
During the first debate in Milwaukee, Fox News attracted 12.8 million viewers. Those results showed that Republican contenders other than Trump were drawing attention, but they still lagged behind the first GOP debate in August 2015, when Trump first ran for president.
It remains to be seen, Perino said, if that level of excitement would attract good ratings for Fox the second time around. Many people, though, are still crossing their fingers for a different candidate in 2024.
For example, “you have a significant number of Republicans who are saying they want a different choice than the two frontrunners right now — meaning Trump or Biden,” Perino added. To paraphrase, “And so we provide the opportunity and venue in a debate so that these candidates who want to be commander-in-chief and who think they would be a better president than President Trump to make their case in front of millions.”
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has criticised Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, who moderated Fox’s first debate, for their questions and their involvement in dominating the stage. Christie has taken particular issue with a question about UFOs that was posed to him.
Christie stated the stage “was completely out of control” after the first debate, during an interview with CNN. “I wish the moderators had taken a firmer hand in regulating the proceedings,” said one.
Perino said that maintaining decorum ultimately rested with the candidates themselves.
“The topic of debate leadership has been on my thoughts. However,” Perino stressed, “a lot of that does lay with the candidates.” It is the responsibility of the candidates to realise that talking over one another is counterproductive since it causes the microphones to cancel each other out and no one can hear what is being said. Also, I’m not sure whether there’s anything I can do about it,” she added afterwards.
The debate’s co-hosts, Fox News’ Stuart Varney and Univision’s Ilia Calderón, will “work together to find a way to make this the most informative debate for the people that are watching,” Perino said of the questions they’ll be asking.
The Republican Party’s eagerness to win over Hispanic and Latino voters who have grown disenchanted with Biden is further evidenced by Univision’s decision to air a Spanish translation of Wednesday’s debate. The Biden team has made courting this demographic a top priority, announcing on Friday a $25 million ad buy to air a spot dubbed “La Diferencia.” According to the campaign, the 30-second ad would be shown in both Spanish and English during a Univision simulcast of Wednesday’s debate.
“More and more willing to consider the Republicans,” Perino remarked of Latino voters. Will [the candidates] be able to drive that point home? That’s up in the air, but they have a chance to change it.