The Slatest

Why the Hell Are You Here? The Awkward Opening Questions of the GOP Consolation Debate

Minutes before the GOP’s unlucky seven took the stage in Cleveland on Thursday evening, Neil Cavuto implored viewers at home not to dismiss the “importance” of what they were about to see. “One or two of the folks debating in minutes could be premier players in days,” Cavuto promised. Based on the first round of questions of the consolation debate that followed, though, it appears as though moderators Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum needed some convincing.

Here they were, in order:

1.) Hemmer to Rick Perry: “You recently said four years ago you weren’t ready for this job, why should someone vote for you now?”

2.) MacCullum to Carly Fiorina: “This week you said that Margaret Thatcher was not content to manage a great nation in decline and ‘neither am I.’ Given your current standing in the polls, is the Iron Lady comparison a stretch?”

3.) Hemmer to Rick Santorum: “You won the Iowa caucus four years ago and 10 other states, but you failed to beat Mitt Romney for the nomination. … Has your moment passed, senator?

4.) MacCallum to Bobby Jindal: “Your approval numbers at home are in the mid-30s at this point. In a recent poll that showed you in a head-to-head with Hillary Clinton in Louisiana, she beat you by several points. So if the people of Louisiana are not satisfied, what makes you think the people of this nation would be?”

5.) Hemmer to Lindsey Graham: “You worked with Democrats and President Obama when it came to climate change, something you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans. How can they trust you based on that record?”

6.) MacCallum to George Pataki: “Four years ago this month you called it quits in a race for the presidency but now you’re back. Mitt Romney declined to run this time because the party needed new blood. Does he have a point?”

7.) Hemmer to Jim Gilmore: You were the last person on stage to declare your candidacy. You ran for the White House once and lost, you ran for the Senate one time and lost, you haven’t held office in 13 years. Similar question: Is it time for new blood?”

It didn’t get any better in round two. “All right everybody,” MacCallum told the candidates, “now to the elephant that is not in the room tonight, Donald Trump.”

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary.