Fox News has set a high bar for any other news network hoping to play in the debate game.
With a record 24 million viewers tuning into the two-hour program — ratings never before seen for a presidential primary debate — Fox News elevated what could have been a dull Republican forum into a high-octane political spectacle.
Fox's debate gave voters a real chance to get to know 17 candidates who are vying for the GOP's nomination — though some got more airtime than others. Sen. Marco Rubio quipped that God "blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can't even find one."
The debate revealed genuine differences of opinion among the candidates that may not be surprising to the seasoned observer, but would be to those just getting to know them. The debate's subtext: Voters still have a choice between the conservative and the moderate, the governor and the senator, the libertarian and the hawk, the showman and the policy wonk.
Throughout the show, Fox's moderators remained focused on their mission: to zero in on each candidate's liabilities. For former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, it was education reform; for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, it was his changing position on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.