Television's new reality show

Rita Kirk, communications professor and director of SMU's Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, talks about GOP contenders' spectacle behavior during debates.

by Jennifer Collins
Marketplace for Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: The Republican presidential field schleps to Rochester, Mich., tomorrow for what feels like the umpteenth debate leading up to the primaries next year. And there will be more debates once the voting actually starts.

Why so many? Because, as Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports, people are watching. Or more properly, they can't not watch.

Jennifer Collins: Republican candidates agree on one thing: They want President Obama out. On pretty much everything else, they fight.

Here's Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney: Would you please, would you please wait?

Rick Perry: You knew that you had illegals working at your...

Romney: Are you just going to keep talking?

They fight with moderators.

Rick Santorum: Let me finish.

Fox News' Chris Wallace (Moderator): No. No. There are rules here, sir.

Fox News' Bret Baier (Moderator): Your time has expired.

They fight about fighting.

Politico's John Harris (Moderator): But, but Speaker Gingrich...

Newt Gingrich: Look the fact, the fact, No.

Harris: We've got to, if I got into a fight but we've got...

Gingrich: The fact, the fact is -- no.

Rita Kirk: Debates have become reality TV.

Rita Kirk is a political consultant and a professor at Southern Methodist University. As the campaign gets underway, political debates are becoming major events. They're unpredictable. They've got rowdy audiences -- and even rowdier candidates....