Fox Business Network insists tonight’s GOP debate won’t be a replay of CNBC’s controversial debate, because they’ll stick to questions about economic issues and not go for a high drama with questions about comic book campaigns, etc. But viewers who have flocked to the country’s new most popular reality series in record numbers should not despair. The candidates are making no such promise.
Some of tonight’s storylines: pundits expect Jeb Bush to take another whack at Marco Rubio’s fitness to occupy the Oval Office, this time with renewed Jeb Can Fix It yeastiness. Political navel lint gazers also say they will be looking to see if Ted Cruz can create another “this is not a cage match” poll-pushing moment, only this time without an assist by moderators.
But the main storyline will be Donald Trump and his neck-and-neck competitor Ben Carson. Carson has been very busy of late defending claims he’s made about his academic career and having attacked various people with knives and hammers as a youth. He’s blamed the “secular progressive movement” [aka journalists] for looking into these claims, but Trump has joined in the fun, weighing in on Carson’s claims on twitter and in interviews. Carson, in turn, has clonked Trump for jumping the gun, as the press has confirmed some Carson claims.
This morning, still winding up his Saturday Night Live hosting victory lap (reviews mixed but ratings good) Trump tells viewers with a wink that while he does not plan to tee off on Carson tonight, he will leave open his options because it’s a “strange” situation.
“The case was made he went after his mother with hammer, wanted to hit his mother over the head with hammer, that he stabbed somebody,” Trump happily told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos this morning of his rival. “And he’s trying to justify this, because he’s wants to be telling the truth.
“And then he said he’s got a pathological temper or something…I’m trying to figure out what’s going on here,” Trump continued. “You’re trying to justify that, yes, you did them –and that’s supposed to make you credible?”
Late last month the RNC bashed CNBC over the CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled” and announced it was suspending plans for NBCU to host the GOP debate in February. Cheering CNBC considerably, an average of 14 million viewers tuned in to that debate, making it the most watched program in the network’s history. That included 3.9M news demo viewers, and 3.4M viewers in the 18-49 age bracket. To try to match that performance, FBN last week announced last week that a number of distributors have agreed to make the network available to all their subscribers for tonight’s debate. Unfortunately, FBN is sending Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee to the debates kids’ table tonight – two GOP candidates who in the past few days have contributed greatly to the Carson pile-on with zippy “Pal, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”-esque lines about press scrutiny of his background.