Who Are The Fourth GOP Debate Moderators? They'll Have A Hard Time Winning Over Conservatives

The next Republican primary debate is coming up, and all eyes will be on... the moderators. When the Republican presidential candidates last gathered on stage to debate the issues, the result was a disorganized, chaotic shouting match that aired live on CNBC. The network's moderators were widely criticized for their lack of control over the candidates and, in the eyes of many conservatives, reluctance to focus on substantive issues. As a consequence, the anchors moderating the next debate, which airs on Fox Business Network, will be scrutinized ruthlessly. And who is moderating the next debate, you ask?

That task will fall to Maria Bartiromo, Neil Cavuto, and Gerard Baker. Bartiromo hosts Mornings With Maria Bartiromo on FBN and the Fox News show Sunday Morning Features With Maria Bartiromo; Cavuto is a senior vice president at both Fox News and FBN and hosts a number of shows between the two channels; and Baker is the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, which is co-sponsoring the debate.

As with the previous Republican primetime debates, this one will be preceded by an undercard debate with lower-polling candidates such as George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum. That pre-show debate will be moderated by FBN's Trish Regan and Sandra Smith, and the Journal's Gerald Seib.

The hope amongst both the candidates and many conservative pundits is that these three will do a better job moderating than CNBC did in October; what's unclear, however, is what exactly will constitute a "better job." CNBC's moderators certainly left something to be desired; they talked over one another at multiple points and at times had their facts wrong. However, despite widespread complaining on the right, the actual questions were perfectly substantive and did indeed focus on relevant policy issues.

Nevertheless, Republicans agreed among themselves that the questions were bunk and quickly acted accordingly. The Republican National Committee has suspended its partnership with NBC News, which was scheduled to moderate another debate on Feb. 26, while many of the Republican candidates are banding together in an attempt to wrangle control the whole debate process away from the RNC altogether.

Days after the CNBC debate, Bartiromo attempted to assuage conservatives' fears about the next debate.

"The point of these debates in general is to ensure that the voter out there has an opportunity to distinguish the differences of all of the candidates," Bartiromo said in a Fox News interview. "The differences in their economic policy, their foreign policy, and also the differences in their leadership style and their governance. And I think that's what I want to try and do."

Fair enough — but still, as many have pointed out, that's exactly what the CNBC moderators did.