Insiders Poll: Divide Over Best Debate Moderater
Whoever said moderating a political debate is a nonpartisan job hasn't talked to National Journal's Political Insiders lately. They didn't hold back when asked to evaluate the performances of this year's presidential and vice presidential debate moderators -- Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, and Candy Crowley -- and their assessments were colored largely by their political leanings.
Lehrer, the former news anchor of PBS Newshour who came out of retirement to moderate his 12th presidential debate, was panned in many circles for his passive approach and got zero love from the Democratic Insiders, but was overwhelmingly the favorite of Republicans. Notably, the debate over which he presided was the one in which Mitt Romney was judged to be the unequivocal winner.
Who has been the best moderator so far in the debates?
"Let 'em talk, for crying out loud," one Republican said referring to the debate's free-wheeling feel. "One of the debaters is going to be president; none of the moderators will be."
"He understood that he was not the show," another said. "The last two have felt as though they were journalists performing for their fellow journalists. Voters are smart enough to figure things out for themselves."
One Democratic Insider indicated he could have predicted his Republican colleagues' tilt: "I expect Romney will say Lehrer -- he did not interrupt him like he did his female moderators," he said.
Crowley, senior political reporter for CNN, was perhaps the most divisive. A respectable four out of 10 Democratic Insiders picked her as the best, while she only got 6 percent of the Republican Insiders' nod.
"Candy Crowley could not have been more biased. No hard questions for Obama, let him keep talking through -- just a totally slanted set up!" one Republican said. "We know it's not Candy, who left the moderating role behind and joined as a participant," another added.
A Democratic counterpart had a different perspective: "She did the best job of managing the interruptions. Was good at staring down Romney when he was overly aggressive and approaching her. Wonder what Jane Goodall would say about his behavior."
"You know she did well because the [Republicans] are complaining about her," another added.
The Insiders were particularly polarized on the moment in which Crowley stepped in on the Libya exchange between the two candidates to tell Romney that President Obama had indeed alluded to the attack on the embassy in Benghazi an act of terror.
"Millions of conservatives just lumped CNN in with MSNBC for Crowley's unfair and misleading 'fact check,'" one Republican said. Another fumed: "Shame on Candy Crowley; she should have let Obama defend himself instead of interjecting -- plus the situation appears to be not as clear as she asserted."
Democratic Insiders meanwhile lauded her stepping in: "Real-time fact checking -- bold and long overdue move."
Meanwhile, Martha Raddatz, a foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News who moderated the vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, was the narrow favorite among Democratic Insiders, and attracted a quarter of votes from Republicans.
"Martha by a mile! Lehrer got rolled, and Candy's tone was too awkward and apologetic in trying to steer the candidates," one Democrat said. "Martha got it right."
Another had praise for both female moderators: "Women should moderate all the debates. Better command of the issues."
Several GOP Insiders seemed to have picked Raddatz by process of elimination. "That's like saying New Moon was the best Twilight movie," one said.Indeed, the sentiment that nobody fit the bill was voiced by several Insiders of both parties. "If this were Nevada, I would choose none of the above," one Democrat said.