Anderson Cooper Moderates Best GOP Debate Thus Far

Whatever you might think of Anderson Cooper as a CNN anchor (I’m obviously not a fan), his performance as tonight’s moderator of the GOP’s 287th debate was stellar. His questions were all on point and he stayed far away from the divisive social issues no one but “journalists” interested in re-electing Obama care about. And, for the first time, it seemed as though everyone on the stage got close to equal time to speak.

What was especially nice was the lack of a buzzer (they’re childish) and Cooper’s willingness to let the candidates debate issues back and forth until it almost seemed as though the matter was settled. When Cooper brought up Perry’s pastor friend and the whole Mormonism-is-a-cult thing, I thought “here we go again.” But then Cooper let Perry and Romney go back and forth until it was no longer an issue. This might be the first time a member of the MSM helped kill an anti-Republican narrative.

The bickering between the candidates, especially Perry and Romney, that’s likely to define this debate and give “Saturday Night Live” an embarrassment of riches, can’t be blamed on the moderator. Cooper did the best he could to control the action, but at the end of the day it was up to the candidates to choose how they wanted to behave.

Politics aside, as far as putting on a compelling debate, Cooper succeeded there as well. The night moved quickly, a good spectrum of topics were covered, and Cooper managed to stay out of the way. This was the candidates’ show, and that’s the way it should be.

This was also the first debate in recent memory where the moderator didn’t single out a candidate for elimination. One of the most frustrating parts of these nights in the past has been watching the moderator act like a big game hunter looking for a trophy by zeroing in on a Romney, Perry or Cain for destruction. Cooper was right to throw a jump ball marked “9-9-9” to open the show, but there was lot of blood on the floor tonight and it came from more than one person — which is how it’s supposed to be.

Thank heaven there won’t be another debate for a month, but whoever’s moderating debates in the future should watch Cooper’s performance tonight and take notes.

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