During the brusque and bluster of a political debate, Bret Baier knows how to keep rowdy candidates in line. After all, the Fox News chief political anchor and host of Special Report moderated five Republican primary debates in the 2012 election cycle. "The biggest challenge is managing time, and coming up with pointed questions that get the candidates off their talking points," he says. Ahead of the Aug. 6 Republican debate at Quicken Loans Arena, when the 10 highest-polling candidates will go stump to stump on Fox News, we spoke with the veteran TV reporter about bleeding colors, managing the buzzer and how to keep things moving.
Q. Were you surprised to hear that Cleveland landed the 2016 Republican National Convention?
A. No, it seemed like a pretty interesting fit. They were really going for states that matter, and they chose a state that is the swingiest of swing states. It's crucial for Republicans to win Ohio.
Q. Although Ohio is a purple state, this debate takes place in a blue county. What are the implications?
A. Ohio, across the board, has many different pockets of Democrats and Republicans. Look at your governor, John Kasich, and how he carried counties that are traditionally blue in his re-election. I think that Republicans hope that they can reach out and cross over and get voters that will be in a different spot, like traditionally blue places. Democrats are hoping to do the same in their convention in Philadelphia.
Q. What does it mean that Fox News is teaming up with Facebook for this debate?
A. It's more interactive. We're really going to try to use some of the tools that Facebook has, not just specific questions, but also statistics, information and data that is flowing in real time. To be able to incorporate that into questions and setups of topics will be really informative for the viewer.
Q. Will you be quick or lenient with the buzzer?
A. I'm pro-buzzer, because frankly it gives the candidates a marker. You don't have to constantly be nagging them about being over on time. ... We have to make sure we pick the right sound. It's not going to be a foghorn, but it's going to be something so the candidates get the message.
Q. Given the debate in Cleveland and nationally about policing, how important is it for Republican candidates to address it here?
Blink, and there's another Republican candidate — 16 in various states of declaration by July 1. So to narrow the field for the Aug. 6 debate, we turned to democracy's ultimate winnower: an anonymous, unscientific 34-person Cleveland Magazine office straw poll.
Test your knowledge of the candidates by dragging their picture to their name.