MILWAUKEE (WITI/WXMI) — Tuesday night candidates will square off during the fourth Republican presidential debate of the season. The debate will be aired on Fox Business Network, and the moderators will be Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker and Fox Business Anchor Neil Cavuto.
Cavuto said if the panel does its job on Tuesday, viewers will walk away from the debate with a greater understanding of where each candidate stands on the economy.
Of course, specific questions that will be asked of the candidates are being kept under wraps, but the group has spent months preparing, he said.
With previous debates breaking rating records for their respective host channels, there’s little doubt there’s pressure for Fox Business Newtork on Tuesday night.
“Nothing like a little pressure,” Cavuto said.
Cavuto says a good moderator is one that can remain "invisible," adding his goal is to keep the candidates on topic, while also allowing for equal time among them.
"They're very good at pivoting. We'll give you 90 seconds to answer questions. If you mention someone else and someone else wants to follow up, they have 60 seconds. That`s still a limited, truncated time — but it`s enough time to avoid interruptions, even though we have a bell and I won`t be yelling 'shut up already,'" Cavuto said.
There's also pressure on Cavuto to help boost the eight-year-old network past rival CNBC in the ratings.
"What we have to do as moderators is make sure we're asking the adult questions without any agenda, but without doing so snidely. I think you can get more places asking tough or firm," Cavuto said.The last debate aired on CNBC, and afterward the network received criticism from candidates and some viewers for lackluster and so-called "gotcha" questions.
When asked about the candidates' reactions to the questioning during last month's CNBC debate, Cavuto acknowledged there were "some bad questions, but by and large there were a lot of good questions."
"I think what happens is (candidates) can veer out of control sometimes when the tone is misinterpreted, whether deliberate or not, I think some candidates can seize on it to deflect questions," he said. "We’re at the point, the closer we get to the Iowa caucus, where a lot of people will start turning on the questioner even if it was Mother Teresa asking the questions.”
Because this debate is airing on the Fox Business Channel, viewers should expect lots of questions about the economy — but we're told viewers can also expect a major tweak to the format in general.
FOX 17s Josh Sidorowicz is the only West Michigan reporter in Milwaukee and will have live reports from the debate throughout the week.