Anticipations run high among the moderators of the impending Republican primary debate, slated to unfold at the prestigious Reagan Library. The candidates, in their quest to establish themselves as the foremost contenders to face off against the former President, Donald Trump, are expected to generate a palpable aura of excitement.
Stuart Varney, the Fox Business anchor, alluded to this heightened tension, remarking, “Each aspirant will ardently seek a defining moment, if not multiple, to carve their distinct niche. This opportunity looms as a pivotal juncture for them to surge ahead, gaining momentum in advance of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.”
Fox News anchor Dana Perino, who will join Varney alongside Univision anchor Ilia Calderón at the moderators’ dais, underscored the significance of Wednesday’s event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley. The debate is scheduled for live broadcast at 6 p.m. Pacific on Fox Business Network and Univision. Additionally, it will be streamed on Rumble, a right-leaning video-sharing platform. Perino emphasized, “This debate signifies a critical juncture where the contenders’ mettle will be truly tested, as one of them must demonstrate their potential as the primary challenger to Trump.”
Presently, six candidates have met the qualifications to participate in the debate. These include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Two other contenders, namely Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, have until Monday to meet the GOP requirements for inclusion. It’s worth noting that Trump announced last week his decision to abstain from joining the debate stage.
Reflecting on the previous debate, Perino noted, “Nikki Haley reaped substantial benefits from the inaugural debate,” referring to the Milwaukee GOP event held in August. She also acknowledged that the identity of Trump’s main rival remains uncertain, considering he was absent in Milwaukee and will not be present in Simi Valley. Varney articulated his intent to foster a vigorous exchange among the candidates at the Reagan Library, stating, “I will seek questions that are directed at specific contenders, recognizing that others hold divergent viewpoints.”
Each candidate will be afforded 60 seconds to respond to a moderator’s inquiry, Varney informed. Should a candidate choose to critique a fellow contender, the latter will be granted 30 seconds to respond—a moment where Varney anticipates potential sparks to ignite. When queried about the possibility of candidates talking over one another, Varney assured, “We possess a resounding buzzer. It falls to us to maintain order, as the audience does not yearn for a chaotic free-for-all.”
Varney disclosed that the Fox Business Network research team will be vigilant for any factual inaccuracies in the candidates’ statements, promptly relaying them to the moderators via their earpieces. However, he anticipates that the candidates will be inclined to rectify any errors themselves.
While the debate will be aired on the Fox Business Network, Varney clarified that the scope of questions will not be confined solely to economic matters. “Quite the contrary,” he emphasized.The audience of this discussion are interested in learning more about the candidates’ positions on a wide range of topics, including immigration, crime, China, and Ukraine. We’ll also present a few surprising questions,” he continued.
Perino asserted that the economy inherently influences a multitude of other issues. For instance, many candidates agree with Ronald Reagan about the value of a robust national defense. A robust economy is indispensable for national defense, crime prevention, and ensuring a quality education,” she elaborated. Varney, who, along with Perino, refrained from revealing specific questions in advance, speculated that topics such as Trump’s legal entanglements and the indictment of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, might surface during the debate.
The choice of debate venue, the Reagan Library, holds symbolic significance for the moderators. “The candidates aspire to inherit the legacy associated with Reagan,” Varney observed. It remains to be seen if they can live up to that legacy.” Varney, a 75-year-old native of Derby, England, and a graduate of the London School of Economics, drew distinctions between Reagan and candidates like Trump. “Reagan was not a populist; he embodied classical conservatism—advocating for low taxes and minimal regulation,” Varney noted. Prior to joining the Fox News business team in 2004, he hosted programs on CNN and CNBC.
Perino, who has participated in book signings at the Reagan Library and contributed to the library’s annual Reagan National Defense Forum, acknowledged her affinity for the venue. Wednesday will mark her debut as a presidential debate moderator, and she expressed gratitude for the support she has received from fellow Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, who previously moderated the debate in Milwaukee. “I must remind myself that I have a dedicated team to assist me, encompassing outstanding researchers and wardrobe professionals. I am not undertaking this endeavor in isolation,” she affirmed.
The 51-year-old native of Evanston, Wyoming, who spent her formative years in Denver, recollected her father’s encouragement to read the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. She said that “he encouraged me to select two articles daily for discussion.” Following a series of reporting roles in broadcasting, Perino ascended from spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Justice to the position of press secretary for President George W. Bush. She shared that President Bush commended her for preparing him so comprehensively before press conferences that he was never caught off guard by reporters’ queries. “It was the honor of a lifetime,” Perino reflected on her White House role.