Biggest winner: Me, for doing something other than watching/being on Twitter and missing this entire shitshow https://t.co/Q54jvDcfkO
— Centrism Fan Acct ?? (@Wilson__Valdez) May 11, 2023
Softball questions. Zero pushback. Running gleefully amok. An audience of howling supporters. On national prime time.
CNN wanted to fire the starting pistol for 2024 with a Trump rally in the chamber.
— Peter Wolf (@peterawolf) May 11, 2023
My immediate, parochial impression after reading about CNN’s much-discussed TFG rally ran along the lines of Wow, looks like the DNC made a good decision dumping New Hampshire’s sacred #FirstInTheNation primary status!
It seems like at least *some* New Hampshire political professionals may’ve had the same thought, considering how they scrambled to get their spin out. Per Puck‘s Tara Palmeri, “Inside the Trump-CNN Thunderdome”:
Matthew Bartlett, the man with the best hair in G.O.P. political consulting, was born and raised in New Hampshire. He’s been involved in politics since he worked for Bono’s One campaign, back in 2008, before steadily undergoing Republican conversion therapy: he started by working for Jon Huntsman’s presidential, in 2012, and then for New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte from 2013 until January 2017, when she lost by 1,000 votes and Donald Trump won the presidency.
During the Trump administration, he became an appointee at the State Department, where he worked for the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, reauthorized the Global HIV/AIDS Program, became a communications director for an entire bureau, and traveled the world…
Tara Palmeri: Why were you in the audience last night? I thought those events were for geriatrics while the rest of us just watched on TV…
Matthew Bartlett: That’s the beauty of New Hampshire. You get the opportunity to see politicians up close from both sides of the aisle, people who you really believe could be the next President of the United States. Sometimes they are people you might vehemently disagree with, but it’s a really critical part of democracy to hear from people and to make your own judgment call. We have this unique feature of democracy where the presidential race is not just sound bites. It’s not TV ads. You get to hear things unfiltered—fortunately or unfortunately.
Were there ground rules for the audience?
They did some warm up with the audience ahead of time. One of the questions was, Are there any conditions? And Kaitlan said, No, there are no conditions. And someone asked if [Trump] knew the questions ahead of time and she said he didn’t. I think a lot of people were prepared to ask questions. The floor manager came out ahead of time and said, Please do not boo, please be respectful. You were allowed to applaud. And I think that set the tone where people were going to try their best to keep this between the navigational beacons, and that if they felt compelled to applaud, they would, but they weren’t going to have an outburst or they weren’t going to boo an answer…
What was your takeaway from the whole debate?
There were plenty of people in that room that were ardent supporters of President Trump, and no matter what he said, they were ready to jump out of their seats and applaud. But there were also people that sat there quietly disgusted or bewildered. In a TV setting, you hear the applause, but you don’t see the disgust. So Trump did not have the entire room on his side, make no mistake, even if it certainly came across that way on TV…
But the most telling part of last night was not the town hall, but the focus group that CNN did in the 10:30 p.m. hour. They had eight people that were present at the town hall and they asked if anybody thought that Trump exceeded expectations. Nobody thought he did. They all said, Yeah, this is Trump. This is kind of what we expected. Nothing that we haven’t really heard before. You had a lot of women in that group really express how difficult it was to hear him talk about the terrible judgment and his liability in the E. Jean Carroll case. I thought that was amazing. And then at the end, the moderator said, Who here is ready to vote for Trump in 2024? And only one hand went up. So I think that was the most telling part…
I found CNN’s focus group moderator Gary Tuchman to be very aggressive… It seemed like he wasn’t getting the answers from the focus group that he wanted. It sounded like they really wanted to talk about kitchen table issues, and they didn’t want to spend the entire time litigating the election. Right?
You got that 100 percent correct. They all made it clear… I know for a fact that there were plenty of people in there with questions regarding immigration. Not just broken immigration at the border, but the legal process too. These are people that need workers. Here in New Hampshire we have a very tight labor market, and I think there’s an opportunity to maybe have a legal process to get workers.
There were people that were really disgusted with Trump’s behavior that were ready to confront him about that in the room. Last night, there were people that wanted to talk about school choice. There were people that wanted to talk about a host of issues. I think the back and forth between Kaitlan and Trump took away that opportunity, and maybe took the town hall a little bit off course. What did CNN think? Trump is going to somehow acquiesce? Was this the first time they had met Donald Trump?…
Can you give me an idea of the split in the room? What percentage was pro-Trump? Trump-skeptical? Anti-Trump?
I’m going to guess that there were about 200 to 250 people in the room. My understanding was that it was open to registered Republicans and registered independents. I know that there were people in that room who did not vote for Trump in 2020. I know that for a fact. So when the first applause broke out, I kind of looked around and I would say maybe half the people were applauding and the other half kind of sat there. So how many people were anti-Trump? I don’t know. But there was a heavy deal of skepticism in the audience…
There were supposed to be 400 people in the audience, but maybe CNN had trouble finding enough
marks willing participants?
So, to recap: CNN pre-selected a bunch of Republicans (New Hampshire ‘Independent’ voters are even more liable than most to be GOP voters who don’t want to admit it), warned them against doing anything negative, and set a hard-right media spokes-being to interview The Never-Ending Sh*t-Show Also Known As TFG. Is anyone still naive enough to believe they didn’t get exactly what they expected?
i know you do, buddy. that’s why i’m thoroughly dejected. https://t.co/vP4CJgLJsg
— world famous art thief (@famousartthief) May 11, 2023
CNN set aside 90 minutes to stick their collective dicks into a blender, but stopped less than 70 minutes in. https://t.co/DzwwqHaBMv
— Jean-Michel Connard ?? (@torriangray) May 11, 2023
From CNN's own media newsletter… pic.twitter.com/dfm20IeZJD
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) May 11, 2023
If Trump's goal was to whip up his shit-brained followers, hd did well. If his goal was to convince prosecutors he wasn't involved in J6, he did poorly.
— Slope Slipperer (@agraybee) May 11, 2023
Addicts. The fucking lot of ya https://t.co/7Vp7oD0r8q
— zeddy (@Zeddary) May 11, 2023
The failure was earlier. In the delusion that by bringing him into your space, you could force him into your world: where there are such things as facts, where verification matters, and the public record speaks. It was a failure to accept how far gone this is, though you knew. https://t.co/5WhK6Qt3U9
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) May 11, 2023
What did we learn last night? We learned that the real ending of “A Face in the Crowd” is that the audience doesn’t turn on Rhodes. They cheer him all the more.
— Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) May 11, 2023
I’d save this for the morning post, but you weaklings would whine about seeing TFG over breakfast.
My priorities yesterday were a little different from Donald Trump’s. pic.twitter.com/H5toYPzZs5
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 11, 2023