The media deemed last night’s Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa a brawl -- far more contentious and fractured than the first go-round in New Hampshire -- and while a clear winner among the candidates may not have emerged, there was one definite beneficiary. Fox News.
Outlets as diverse as the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Politico and Time all complimented the cable channel for asking tough questions.
Were this a Democratic debate, this likely would not be considered significant, but since the general sense in the media is that Fox News sits to the right of the aisle ideologically -- something Fox would attribute to the mainstream media’s own bias -- many critics went out of their way to laud the network.
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik called it a “first-class, rousing and illuminating debate,” and said that most of the credit goes to anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.
Zurawik added that Baier “set the bar high for every moderator who follows this presidential season, and every other sponsoring group and network better be careful about letting someone who is over the hill, lazy or living off his or her looks moderate a future debate. They are going to be judged against Baier and found wanting.”
Politico’s Keach Hagey noted that, “instead of providing a platform from which candidates could complain about the bias of the mainstream media -- a role the channel often played during the 2010 election cycle -- Fox News came across as a robust part of that mainstream media.”
To Hagey, the defining moment was when Wallace pressed Gingrich on the implosion of his campaign organization.
The Boston Globe’s Rob Anderson summed it all up as follows: “Bottom line: Fox News was a big winner here. Alas for them, the same can’t be said of any of the major candidates.”
Now the only question is what will happen when both Democrats and Republians take the stage.