GOP primary debate moderator Dana Perino says the economy is critical to key issues ‘worrying Americans’

FOX News anchor Dana Perino, who will co-moderate Wednesday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, Calif., expects a wide-ranging examination of the candidates jockeying to be the next commander in chief. 

While FOX Business is hosting the debate, Perino said the debate will be broad and feature a wide variety of topics. However, she feels that the economy will be a critical part of the debate, not because it’s hosted by a business network, but because so many critical issues are tied to finances.

“I believe the economy will feature prominently, because we know that that is the biggest concern and preoccupation that is worrying Americans,” Perino told FOX News Digital. 

“In many ways, in my opinion, the economy is the thread that runs through all of these other possible topics,” she continued. “For example, if you’re concerned about crime, one of the issues is, ‘What kind of resources do you have and are you willing to use in order to help deal with that?’ Or if you are concerned about education, or childcare or national defense, you need a strong and growing economy in order to feel like a strong and growing country.”


FOX News anchor Dana Perino, who will co-moderate Wednesdays Republican presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, Calif., expects a wide-ranging examination of the candidates. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

Perino will co-moderate alongside FBN’s Stuart Varney and UNIVISION’s Ilia Calderón from 9-11 p.m. ET at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

She feels that she is ready for anything, but she is particularly equipped for this group of candidates because she was in the room when FOX News anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier moderated the first debate last month. 

“I had never done that before, because usually I’m on the panel doing the coverage afterwards. But this time because I did the preview of the debate, I actually got to go into the arena and watch,” she said. 

“For a lot of people, that was the first time they had ever heard from those candidates, and perhaps had ever heard of those candidates… now you have a situation where, I would say that all of them did fine, but nobody had a great breakout moment,” Perino continued. “And so, this second debate, when we are less than four months away from the first voting in Iowa, is where the rubber meets the road.” 

Bret and Martha

Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum moderated FOX News Media’s “Democracy 24: FOX News Republican Primary Debate.” (FOX)

Perino believes that the candidates are well aware they need “some sort of breakout moment” on Wednesday night so that they can prove they should be among the main rivals to former President Trump, whose lead is commanding. 

“I believe that these candidates know that this is a make-or-break moment for them,” she said. 

Perino has essentially been preparing to co-moderate the debate since before she was even selected for the gig, since she’s so close with her FOX News colleagues. 

“Martha and Bret have been very generous with their time and advice for me,” Perino said. “One of the things that I enjoy in my friendship with my colleagues is that we talk about these issues all of the time. And even during their preparation, I would send them some ideas for questions back and forth.”

Dana Perino, Stuary Varney

FOX News Medias Dana Perino and Stuart Varney will co-moderate the second Republican presidential primary debate alongside Univisions Ilia Calderón.  (Fox News)

Perino said MacCallum and Baier gave her advice on how to control the candidates, and there are rules in place to ensure that the event isn’t plagued with constant interrupting. Ironically, the longtime co-host of “The Five” has plenty of experience dealing with that very same issue. 

“When ‘The Five’ first started in 2011, and we didn’t really know what we were doing. It’s a brand-new type of show, and there were times when we would all start talking at once and talking over one another,” Perino said. 

“I remember getting a call from the control room during a commercial break saying that if it continued, they were going to cancel the show because nobody can hear when they’re watching at home if everyone’s talking at once,” she added. “And that’s true for these candidates as well. So, it is in their interest to make their points succinctly and to land the point without going over their time so that everybody can actually hear what they have to say.”

“The Five” figured it out and is now the most-watched show on cable news. It’s unclear if the candidates will take a similar path, but Perino feels a strong debate performance is critical as millions of dollars are spent on ads simply to improve name recognition.

“In this particular debate, which will be two hours, they have an opportunity to get earned media without any cost, to make their point to a much bigger audience,” Perino said. “You couldn’t possibly buy this kind of airtime.”

Both FOX Business Network and FOX News Channel will present special live programming surrounding the second Republican presidential primary debate. 

FBN’s special, live coverage will begin at 6 p.m. ET with a special two-hour edition of “The Bottom Line” with Dagen McDowell and Sean Duffy. At 8 p.m., FBN’s Larry Kudlow will present an hour-long pre-debate program titled “Countdown to the Debate” with a team of commentators that will feature co-moderators Perino and Varney, along with Martha MacCallum, Bret Baier, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, Harold Ford Jr., Karl Rove and Kellyanne Conway. 

Following the two-hour debate, FOX News will present a special edition of “Hannity” at 11 p.m. ET, which will be simulcast on FBN featuring post-debate analysis live from the spin room and real-time candidate reaction from Simi Valley. 


At midnight EST, “Fox News @ Night” with Trace Gallagher will continue the network’s simulcast coverage from the spin room followed by a repeat of the debate at 1 a.m. ET.

In addition, several FNC and FBN programs will be presented live from Simi Valley throughout the week, including: FBN’s “Varney & Co.” and “Kudlow,” along with FNC’s “Fox & Friends,” “America’s Newsroom,” “The Five,” “Special Report,” “Hannity” and “FOX News @ Night.

FNC’s White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich will report live from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, while FNC correspondent Bill Melugin and FBN correspondents Madison Alworth and Grady Trimble will update viewers on reaction across the country live from the Reagan Library.

FOX News Digital will also provide nonstop reporting on the homepage with a continuously updated live blog. 

FOX News’ Kendall Tietz contributed to this report. 


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