It looks like the Republican National Committee will partner with just about anyone to put on a presidential debate. In a press release released Thursday morning, NewsNation, an upstart cable news network with less than 65,000 nightly viewers as of last year, announced that they will be hosting the fourth GOP debate in December. It will take place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“All of us at NewsNation are incredibly honored to be hosting a presidential primary debate and to be part of what will be another historic election season,” said Sean Compton, president of Nexstar Networks which owns NewsNation. “We are also extremely pleased to have the opportunity to introduce more Americans to NewsNation, a twenty-four-hour national news network committed to delivering outstanding journalism and first-rate political coverage and analysis.”
NewsNation also secured Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator. In 2015, Kelly squared off against Donald Trump in the most viewed presidential debate in history. It’s unlikely that Trump will appear on the debate stage in December, but Kelly will be joined by the Washington Free Beacon’s Eliana Johnson and NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas.
“It will be the margarita of debates — spicy, fun and somewhat intoxicating. Looking forward to it,” Kelly, who hosts The Megyn Kelly Show on SiriusXM, said in a statement.
It is unclear why the RNC would partner with a network that has a smaller audience than The View. Cockburn assumes Ronna McDaniel is hoping to jump on the anti-establishment bandwagon. The first GOP debate was hosted by Fox News and the second by Fox Business Network and Univision. Wednesday night’s debate was hosted by NBC along with the Salem Radio Network.
In their press release, NewsNation insisted that they are the fastest growing network in the nation, beating out Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. Still, the network has fewer viewers than the other three. NewsNation’s most watched program, Chris Cuomo’s 8 p.m. primetime hour, has an average audience of 154,000. Even in the aftermath of Tucker Carlson’s exit, Fox’s most popular programs have well over 2 million viewers.
NewsNation also insists that they are a centrist outlet. Yet that doesn’t fully explain why they hired Cuomo shortly after CNN fired him for his influence in the media to bury allegations about his brother’s sexual misconduct. Cuomo, in his defense, has hewed a more moderate line in his time at the arriviste network.
Even if the RNC has lowered its standards for the hosting network, it has raised qualification criteria for candidates in the next debate. Candidates must now reach 6 percent in at least two national polls or 6 percent in one national poll and one statewide poll in four early primary states. Additionally, candidates need 80,000 donors from at least twenty states.