Look, this is where politics has gotten us now. And I think the line from Rick Santorum during the debate that got such huge applause was on point. He said can't we get with back to some serious issues? We've got a $15 trillion debt and counting, we've got threats from Iran. Ahmadinejad has been down there in Venezuela trying to dredging up things with Castro and Cuba to undermine the United States. We have some serious economic and political and social issues and they're talking about, you're richer than I am. Sounds like schoolyard sandbox stuff. It's disgusting.
RATNER: It is true that Joanna Goldberg though, in the National Review, says look, Newt is capitalizing on the anti-establishment move in terms of the GOP. And that is true. His people might not like him but the rank-and-file people, who are sort of angry at the establishment GOP, have liked him.
PINKERTON: Right. I mean this is -- what Ellen and Cal are saying is the theater part is sort of taken over. The biggest variable, as far as I can tell, in the last three debates, was CNN, audience participation; NBC, no audience participation.
SCOTT: Right, yes.
PINKERTON: CNN, on Thursday night, back to audience participation. It makes it more entertaining. And the surprise was that even though Newt had the benefit of audience participation in the CNN debate Thursday night, was Wolf Blitzer. It still didn't help him very much. For whatever reason, Romney was better. He was worse. Santorum was kind of the star. But the media are so focused on Newt versus Romney that they almost forget Santorum.
SCOTT: The media ignoring a candidate? Is that possible, Kirsten?
POWERS: No. That never happens. That never happens.
But I think even the establishment thing -- I know the voters feel like oh we don't care with the establishment says about him because we're anti-establishment. Newt is the establishment. The establishment is turning against somebody who’s part of the establishment. They're not against him because he's this free-thinking, independent person. That's sort of the distinction that's lost. He's not some populist that's out there. These people know him. He's been part of the Washington establishment for as long as I can remember and then the establishment doesn't like him.
THOMAS: I want to pick up on a line Jim used about theater. This has become theater. And as I said on this show a couple weeks ago, knowing no higher authority to quote but myself --
-- the Republicans shouldn't put engage in this. They shouldn't put themselves into a "Jeopardy"-like game show with the lecterns and everything else, letting Wolf Blitzer, John King, all the other people formulate the questions and formulate the plot. Mix it up and decide on their own venues at least some of them. There's nothing written in the Constitution or anywhere else where they have to submit themselves to these people.
SCOTT: What about --
SCOTT: -- you mentioned, Jim, that Monday night debate that had no audience participation. Why invite an audience in if you're not going to let them be involved?
PINKERTON: That's a good question.
Jon, you used to work at NBC. You tell me?
SCOTT: I don't know. They obviously -- I think they didn't want certain candidates to get that -- I don't know, roar of --
THOMAS: Rush, yes.
SCOTT: -- rush of adrenaline that comes from the roar of a crowd.
POWERS: I think it's more that they're intimidated by it. They don't like having their questions booed. They don't want to be booed over. And it could get out of control. If you starting coming back and people are booing over you and you can't get your word out, I think some people don’t wanna lose control--
RATNER: But, except people watch more when there's audience participation.
THOMAS: That's true.
RATNER: If you want to get up your numbers, you ought to have an audience.
THOMAS: Wolf Blitzer was primed. He did come back at Gingrich after John King on the earlier one was kind of flummoxed by Newt's adversarial position. Blitzer came back and said, hey, I'm not saying anything you haven't already said.
SCOTT: Are these questions designed to get answers to the issues --
-- that people want to know about or are they designed to create fireworks and conflict on stage?
PINKERTON: They're designed for fireworks and conflict. But I must say I can see how the media and Democrats are delighted to see the Republicans hacking each other. But I have to also say, after 19 of these things, I'm getting a little -- how do I say this -- slightly bored by the same answers. I'm going to cut taxes, I'm going to -- it's not to say I'm for all those things, however, it's just is not as if they're not breaking new ground, except for Newt, when he talks about space colonies.
And then they make fun of him.
SCOTT: Yes and the replays element you get on TV are all about the candidates attacking each other, not about their ideas.
RATNER: They're not about issues. They're not about issues.
SCOTT: Or their ideas versus President Obama. Will that change once we get down to one nominee?