Although titled the Republican Primary Debate, CNN’s lengthy Wednesday evening production was much more of a “he said, she said,” Real-Housewives catfight-esque, combative communications performance than a Presidential deliberation.
Taking place at California’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, CNN hosted a whopping 16 Republican candidates for what resulted in more of a confrontational therapy session between the “cool kids” rather than an evenly distributed discussion amongst all of the candidates. And yet, the prime time debate averaged 23.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in CNN’s history. Is this statistic telling of the type of communication that attracts a majority of our nation’s population?
CNN’s combative questioning technique was designed to spark conversation, typically controversial, between two candidates in regards to comments that one has said about the other and vise versa. As the inquiries and accusations were being responded to, the network would publish the responses via Twitter, which only elongated the “he said, she said” conversation via social media. On the contrary, professor and CNN Political Analyst during elections Dr. Rita Kirk, noted that although combative, the debate technique forced candidates to be confrontational in a public forum. By forcing candidates to face the criticism that was made both by them and against them, it acted as a “check” on held them and a catalyst for accountability, which may have been the appeal to the American public.