Behind the scenes: The Iowa Republican Debate

Presidential candidates gathered in Des Moines, IA for the Fox News x Google Republican debate on Jan. 28.  Four candidates took part in the undercard debate. Pictured from left to right, Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA), Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Former Governor Mike Huckabee(AK) and Former Governor Jim Gilmore (VA).  Photo By Lauren May.

Presidential candidates gathered in Des Moines, IA for the Fox News x Google Republican debate on Jan. 28. Four candidates took part in the undercard debate. Pictured above are the participants, from left to right: Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA), Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Former Governor Mike Huckabee(AK) and Former Governor Jim Gilmore (VA).       Photo By Lauren May.

What is seen and what is heard are two very separate things during debate season. I experienced this first hand at the Fox News and Google Republican Debate in Des Moines, IA.  Through your television screens, it sounded like a raucous affair filled with divided supporters.  In reality, the debate room was filled with approximately 1600 people of all ages and backgrounds.

The biggest deceptions of the evening were the crowd and the levels of support for each candidate.  For example, multiple moderators and pundits commented on the level of support in the room for Senator Rand Paul.  However, the group making a large amount of noise was made up of about 30 guys. Their chants were reminiscent of frat boys at a football game; loud, obnoxious and seemingly endless. To the moderators, it sounded as if Paul had a large support group in Iowa.  The results of the Iowa Caucus, however, showed otherwise.  Paul received 4.5% of the total vote and one delegate, according to the Associated Press.  He suspended his campaign shortly after.

During the second debate, many policy questions were asked between the candidates present: (from left to right) Senator Rand Paul (KY), Governor Chris Christie (NJ), Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz (TX), Senator Marco Rubio (FL), Former Governor Jeb Bush (FL) and Governor John Kasich (OH). Photo courtesy of USA Today.

During the second debate, many policy questions were asked between the candidates present: (from left to right) Senator Rand Paul (KY), Governor Chris Christie (NJ), Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz (TX), Senator Marco Rubio (FL), Former Governor Jeb Bush (FL) and Governor John Kasich (OH).
Photo courtesy of USA Today.

The crowd seemed to be attentive, concerned voters. To the contrary, part of the crowd did not attend the first/undercard/early/second tier debate. My seven chair row had five vacant seats during the first debate, and all were filled for the ‘primetime’ debate.  Some crowd members were taking their seats during the candidate introductions.  The care and precision for the presentation of each debate crowd was starkly different.

One aspect of the debate that you could only experience in person were the commercial breaks.  During the breaks, candidates would talk, shake hands, and take pictures with audience members. Dr. Ben Carson even came out into the crowd further than any other candidate during breaks, sincerely connecting with as many audience members as possible.

Debates are crucial to the election process, but not everything you see or hear on the television is true.