If there’s an “oops” moment under the klieg lights this year, Wednesday night could be when it transpires. But the Republican candidates heading into their second presidential primary debate can’t say they haven’t been warned.
Hugh Hewitt – the widely respected conservative radio talk show host – will assist CNN in the evening’s questioning and has already promised to toss tough queries about security and defense at the 11 candidates in the main showdown.
He’s already tripped up the two current GOP front-runners. Donald Trump told Hewitt earlier this month he couldn’t identify the names of the leaders of major terrorist groups and confused a question about the Quds force – an elite Iranian military unit – as being about the Kurds, an ethnic group and U.S. ally in northern Iraq. In March, it was Ben Carson who faltered at the hands of Hewitt, misstating that the Baltic states weren’t part of NATO.
On Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the two will stand center stage, which means they will likely command the most attention. But the rest of the fleet will also have opportunities to shine or shrivel when cross-examined about their qualifications to be commander-in-chief.
“Everyone’s already showed they know what’s wrong with [President Barack] Obama’s foreign policy. But at this debate, they’re going to have to get beyond complaining about leading from behind and saying they’ll make America great again,” says Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution whom Hewitt has consulted with to formulate debate questions. “Everyone eventually has to answer that Hillary Clinton 3 a.m. phone call.”
There’s widespread consensus among the Republican slate when it comes to the broad strokes of foreign policy: The Islamic State group must be eradicated. The Iran nuclear deal should be nullified. Military spending ought to rise.