The top 15 candidates, in terms of polling numbers met Sept. 16 at the Reagan National Library to discuss the issues important to the country; many ended up fighting over history and showed disdain for the idea of answering questions. 

In what many called a “marathon” event, CNN hosted the second of 2016 Republican presidential debate at the Reagan National Library. The debate included the top 15 candidates in poll rankings; discussing a variety of topics ranging from Planned Parenthood to ISIS. One major change in the line up from the previous debate was the inclusion of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose polling numbers increased greatly since the first debate which was hosted by the FOX Network. 

While it will certainly be debated in days to come on who the winner of the debate was, I believe that we need to take a look at the format of the debate and how much of a role the moderators played in this three hour long event.

The rules for the debate were released by CNN prior to the event and were as follows: 


Each candidate would be given exactly one minute to answer a question and 30 seconds for rebuttal if his or her name was brought up by another candidate. To help with the enforcement of time restrictions, there were red and green lights that the candidates could see which indicated remaining time. Unfortunately, a couple of lights and a word from the moderators would not do the trick in controlling the shouting match and petty squabbles that filled most of the debate.

Moderators for the debate were Jake Tapper- chief Washington correspondent, Hugh Hewitt, a radio talk show host for the Salem Radio Network, and Dana Bash, chief political correspondent for CNN.

The moderators should not be held completely responsible for the commotion as it was clear a high level of effort to maintain order was more than evident. Tapper should also be given an extreme amount of credit for not allowing rants by the candidates to supplement as answers to given questions. Many times candidates were given a second chance to give an answer and the audience was told that a non-answer was given. 


This allowance of rants and then returning to the questions shows a major step forward in how debates are hosted. It appears that networks are finally aware that the candidate are going to preach to the crowd and have accepted this as fact. The only real problem I have with how the debate was run, was the style of questions that were asked. 

Tapper several times covered controversial topics by mentioning a comment said of one candidate by another. This seemed to be an instigation tactic and as if the moderators wanted to start fights. It is not a wonder why the debate when on for three hours with the questions being of this nature for most of the night.

Jake Tapper’s only other major flaw of the evening was not being strong handed enough with the candidates. Every candidate spoke past his given minute, interrupted rebuttals, spoke back at the moderators, and blatantly refused to answer the questions. The only response from Tapper; a simple “Thank you Governor [/Senator/Mr./Mrs.]” It showed a weak fortitude and set a bad precedent for how interactions between panel and candidate will go for future debates.

In a debate that was meant to cover topics including foreign and domestic policies as well as reactions to events of recent past, the debate started and ended in very much the same way; incoherent squabbling punctuated by oft-repeated and tired talking points. Unfortunately for those of us that came to hear opinions on these policies and possible solutions to problems the nation faces, many were left disappointed. It looks like we will have to keep waiting for the day when questions receive answers and respect is given where respect is due, because that day certainly didn't come at the CNN republican debate.