Fox News anchors Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier will serve as co-moderators Thursday during the first debate between 2016 Republican presidential candidates. The event will formally kick off months of campaigning as candidates attempt to separate themselves in the race to replace Barack Obama as the United States’ commander-in-chief.
Wallace, Kelley and Baier will use a combination of their own questions, audience questions and data obtained by debate partner Facebook to grill candidates on various matters of public interest. Though 17 individuals have entered the race to earn the Republican Party nomination in 2016, Fox News used a combination of 10 polls to determine which candidates merited a spot in the debate. For Wallace, a longtime veteran of the political circuit, the larger-than-normal size of the debate is proof the race is wide open.
“There’s so doggone many,” Wallace told the Washington Post. “Will [the debate] be as great as it would be if there were three or four candidates? No. But it’s clear from the polls, people are far from decided.”
Wallace, 67, has covered U.S. presidential races for decades and has worked at Fox News since 2003. A three-time Emmy Award winner, he currently serves as anchor for Fox News Sunday.
Kelly, who hosts “The Kelly File” weeknights on the Fox News Channel, garnered national attention during the 2012 presidential election after she confronted Republican strategist Karl Rove over his refusal to acknowledge Barack Obama had won re-election. She identified Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and early leader in Republican polls with a penchant for provocative comments, as a candidate to watch in the debate.
“Trump is going to be front and center. Good or bad, he’s fascinating,” Kelly told USA Today. “He’s going to drive huge eyeballs to the debate. He’s a true celebrity. He commands an audience, for whatever reason. He’s interesting. He just is. Trump may be peaking early. Or it may be the beginning of something unstoppable.”
Baier, 45, serves as Fox News’ chief political correspondent and moderated each of the network’s Republican primary debates during the 2012 presidential race. Bill Sammon, vice president of the Fox News Channel, told the Washington Post that Baier prepared 54 questions for the debate, compared to Wallace’s 22.
"What I'm looking for and what we all are looking for is something that's interesting but illuminating,” Baier told Cleveland.com. “And that's maybe not what you hear on the stump from candidates. So, we've been working all the anchors, moderators, to structure these questions in a way that they're hard, they're pointed, they're fair, but it gets them off their talking points. ”
Fox News’ 2016 Republican primary debate will occur live Thursday at Quicken Loan Arena in Cleveland, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.