CNN, MSNBC Pundits Decry ‘Scatterbrains’ GOP Who Caused ‘Long-Term Injury’ to Brand in Debate

CNN and MSNBC pundits had no shortage of hot takes following Thursday’s CNN Republican Presidential Debate and among the noticeable talk points was the belief that the spirited debate in Houston caused a “long-term injury” to the party as the five remaining candidates “looked like a bunch of third graders arguing over the monkey bars on the playground.”

On CNN’s AC360 Post-Debate Special, CNN host and political commentator Michael Smerconish invoked former boss and President George H.W. Bush to lament that, unlike Bush, the behavior of the candidates was reminiscent of “an s-show in many respects and I worry about for the Republican Party the long-term injury that they’ve done to their brand.”

Smerconish referenced the Republican National Committee’s post-2012 election autopsy and mentioned that one conclusion suggested reforms to the debate process. With that in mind, Smerconish complained that “[t]his was the first one that I think, because of the behavior of the candidates, was out of control in a way that whomever emerges, you have to wonder what’s going to happen in the fall.”

Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews was given a two-hour edition of Hardball where panelist and former RNC chair Michael Steele assumed his usual position of offering relentless criticism of what his party’s doing wrong. 

Steele argued that while “a lot of people may say Rubio won the night,” he was working to look at the broader contest and observed that the American people should “really have to be concerned about what we're prepared as a party to put forward as an argument to them about which one of these individuals should be president of the United States and I think that becomes a more and more important question coming up against what the Democrats are prepared to do this fall.”

“This is not about one-liners and trying to punch drunk the other opponent, but really making the case for why you should be president and that unfortunately, for me, got lost tonight,” Steele added. 

Even less at a loss for words when it comes to attacking conservatives, James Moore quipped to Matthews just before the midnight Eastern mark that: “[T]his debate, to me, tonight looked like a bunch of third graders arguing over the monkey bars on the playground. It was ridiculous.”

Of course, Matthews laughed hysterically at this take and declared that “[m]y term is scatterbrains” for what transpired. He then returned with the same train of thought seconds after midnight Eastern time:

It was a wild night in Houston. A scattered brain night in many ways where the five remaining Republican contenders met for their final debate before Super Tuesday and maybe the most important debate we’ve seen at the end at least[.]

The relevant portion of the transcript from CNN’s AC360 Post-Debate Special on February 25 can be found below.

CNN’s AC360 Post-Debate Special
February 25, 2016
11:46 p.m. Eastern

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Can I make a quick Bush point because I’m very proud of the fact that I worked for President George Herbert Walker Bush — 

JAKE TAPPER: Who was here this evening. 

SMERCONISH: He was here this evening. This was an s-show in many respects and I worry about for the Republican Party the long-term injury that they’ve done to their brand. You know that autopsy, post-2012 said we need to rein in the debates. This was the first one that I think, because of the behavior of the candidates, was out of control in a way that whomever emerges, you have to wonder what’s going to happen in the fall.

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s Special Edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews on February 25 and 26 can be found below.

MSNBC’s Special Edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews
February 25, 2016
11:11 p.m. Eastern

MICHAEL STEELE: Look, a lot of people may say Rubio won the night because he punched up and he did well punching up, but I'm stepping back at this point as we’re about to get to Super Tuesday and asked who really won this? I think the American people looking at this really have to be concerned about what we're prepared as a party to put forward as an argument to them about which one of these individuals should be president of the United States and I think that becomes a more and more important question coming up against what the Democrats are prepared to do this fall, so you can put the squealers in the audience, you can have the canned, you know, laughter and the noise making, but the reality is you have to make the argument to the American people. This is not about one-liners and trying to punch drunk the other opponent, but really making the case for why you should be president and that unfortunately, for me, got lost tonight. 

(....)

11:56 p.m. Eastern

JAMES MOORE: This debate, to me, tonight — this debate, to me, tonight looked like a bunch of third graders arguing over the monkey bars on the playground. It was ridiculous. 

MATTHEWS: It was. I agree. My term is scatterbrains.

(....)

February 26, 2016
12:00 a.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: It was a wild night in Houston. A scattered brain night in many ways where the five remaining Republican contenders met for their final debate before Super Tuesday and maybe the most important debate we’ve seen at the end at least[.]

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center