I think Zeke Miller is correct that the GOP’s fuss about CNN and NBC broadcasting GOP primary debates is more about protecting the frontrunners, and attempting to keep Tea Party candidates in their proper (that is, secondary) place, than about fear of the questions CNN’s moderators might ask.
Reforming the primary debate process has been a central component of the RNC’s 2012 autopsy, with party officials trying to restrict the number of debates and screen out unfriendly debate moderators. But the effort to cut back on the number of debates has run into headwinds from Republican state parties in early states, who in many instances see revenue from co-hosting the debates and associated events. The autopsy recommends changing the RNC rules to include penalties for Republican state parties or candidates if they participate in debates unsanctioned by the RNC. [...]
Priebus has previously proposed a more modest 10 to 12 debates, in part to protect better-funded candidates from insurgents who capitalize on their time before the cameras.
But it would be nice if one outcome of this is more ideological debate moderators – and not just because I, as a liberal, would find it entertaining to see the Republican nominees being grilled by Rush. The purpose of the Republican primary is to allow Republican voters to pick their candidate. Wouldn’t conservative moderators do a better job of asking the questions that Republicans actually care about?
Plus, when a Republican does terribly in a debate, they’d have to make up a new excuse, instead of always claiming that they were incapable of speaking coherently because the moderators were biased liberals.
I’d love to see the same thing done with the Democrats. Let them be questioned by Katha Pollit, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Ezra Klein. Maybe the questions will be substantive instead of inane (“I want to know if you believe in the American flag”) for once.
But it won’t happen, because the last thing the presumptive front-runners in either party want is a debate that could force them to make commitments to their own base – commitments than might interfere with their general campaign strategies. For the candidate with a serious shot at the Presidency, it’s much better to be asked vapid questions by idiotic “centrist” journalists; they may be mindless drones, but they’re safe mindless drones.