According to an online poll and Politico’s “political insiders,” Senator Marco Rubio won or tied Donald Trump as the winner of the Fox Business Network debate. But could he have done it without so much help from his pals at FBN?
At Salon, Simon Maloy nails how the moderators assisted, if they didn’t actually plan for, Rubio’s skate through the debate:
Going into the debate, the expectation was the Rubio – who is rising in the polls and emerging as something of a soft consensus candidate for the Republican establishment – would face the harsher scrutiny that comes with being a frontrunner. But that’s not what happened. The questions directed at Rubio by the moderators were invitations for him to launch into his talking points. Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief asked Rubio how, in an economy that is “undergoing transformation,” would he “reassure American workers that their jobs are not steadily replaced by machines.” Rubio recited the “21st century economy” portion of his stump speech. Maria Bartiromo teed up a question about Hillary Clinton’s resume and asked Rubio how he’ll beat her even though she’s been in politics so long. Rubio chuckled at the question (as he should have) and launched into the “this election is about the future” portion of his stump speech.
And then there were the questions Rubio wasn’t asked. Donald Trump was interrogated about his position on immigration, but Rubio – whose immigration apostasies have caused him trouble with conservatives – was not. Ted Cruz was pressed repeatedly on how he’d pay for his package of tax cuts, but Rubio – whose tax plan costs far more than Cruz’s – was not.
The only tough question Rubio fielded dealt with his proposal to expand the child tax credit, which Baker cast as “another expensive entitlement program to an already overburdened federal budget.” Rubio dodged the question entirely, saying that he loves families and is proud to have a pro-family tax plan. Hooray families! He likely would have gotten away with that had Rand Paul not jumped in and pointed out that Rubio’s expansion of the tax credit exists alongside his massive expansion of military spending, which isn’t very “conservative.” Paul had him dead to rights, but Rubio blustered his way out, calling Paul an “isolationist” and declaring “we can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe.” Rubio came nowhere close to answering Baker’s question or Paul’s challenge, and no one bothered to follow up and ask how Rubio would pay for new tax credits, pay for the military spending, pay for the tax cuts, and reduce the national debt he’s so worried about. It’s a massive contradiction at the heart of Rubio’s candidacy, but, in keeping with the evening’s theme, everyone just let it slide.
Sadly, in the fractured world of partisan realities, Republicans seemed to love Fox Business’ moderation. As John Amato noted in his debate wrap-up at Crooks and Liars, Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell (a Fox regular) called it a “HUGE success for Fox Business. Best event yet.” RNC head Reince Priebus gushed, “And that @CNBC is how you run a debate.” On the other hand, Ann Coulter seems to have had a moment of clarity. She tweeted, "Even the NYT noticed! ‘Sen Marco Rubio of Fla and the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, received a pass from the moderators on immigration..’"
Coulter also tweeted, “NYT noticed this, too: Rubio "repeatedly received questions that allowed him to answer with versions of his stump speech." Zzzzzzzzz.”
I rest my case.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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