Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum is set to co-moderate the first GOP presidential primary debate with Bret Baier tonight at 9 p.m. on the Fox News channel. Prior to the broadcast, Nantucket Current interviewed MacCallum, a frequent island visitor, to get her thoughts on the debate and about Nantucket.
Q. You are preparing for the Republican presidential debate and you just recently learned the lead protagonist, Donald Trump, will not be participating. How have you prepared with that kind of uncertainty?
A. The former President will be ‘present’ whether he’s on the stage or not. He is the lead candidate and he’s facing several indictments, so he’s big news and a huge topic either way. We’d like to have him there to represent himself of course, and I had hoped he would take advantage of the opportunity to talk to millions of voters across the nation — and face the other candidates head-on.
Q. Regardless of the fact he has chosen not to participate, how is it possible that his legal issues do not become the focus of the dialogue versus issues that affect the country as a whole?
A. Good question. We as moderators will have to strike that balance. It’s the biggest news story of the moment, so we will tackle it with the other candidates. Where they stand — with or against him on those cases, defines them for voters as well. But there are a lot of concerns in the country, inflation, abortion, the war in Ukraine. The future of our kids. The issues that matter most to voters will be very prominent on Wednesday night.
Q. If you add up the polling numbers for all the candidates running against Trump, they still don’t add up to over 50%. Do you feel that there could be another candidate on the horizon that has not yet emerged?
A. If Trump declines at all, or there is a sense he is vulnerable, I think there's a chance you see Governor Youngkin get in the race.
Q. From a ratings standpoint, what happens to your audience now that Trump is not participating?
A. The fireworks when Trump is on stage always draw a big audience of course, but this is a big night either way. The summer before a presidential election year — and how an election looks to be shaping up, in this case a ‘rematch’ - is rarely how things look by next spring. Anything can happen, anyone can break out of the pack and challenge the former President, so I’m sure there will be plenty of people watching.
Q. Can you envision a scenario where Donald Trump is not the Republican nominee?
A. It certainly looks that way now, but a lot can and will happen in a year. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Hillary Clinton were also "inevitable" nominees.
Q. You have been observing the political scene in this country for some time, what do you think it will take to help bridge the partisan divide we are now experiencing?
A. It will take a leader who makes that the priority. It could take a big event, and I hope it’s not a catastrophic one, or a global confrontation, but in history those tend to focus the minds and pull people together. I think people are craving a return to manners, civility. But both sides are very passionate about what a better country looks like so it’s complicated.
Q. Can you give us examples of politicians on either side of the aisle who seem to be willing to work with the opposition in a way that we used to see during the days of Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch?
A. Well, I covered Ted Kennedy’s funeral for Fox News and Orrin Hatch’s eulogy the night before at the Kennedy Library was one of the best, funniest, most affectionate tributes I have ever heard. Maybe we should replay it once in a while to remind people that those friendships can exist. I think people work across the aisle more often than you might realize, especially on issues like the impact of social media on kids - Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn have done that.
Q. Broadcasters’ performances in presidential debates often make or break their reputations. Do these kind of assignments give you pause?
A. Not until you asked me that! Hoping the experience and doing my homework works again this time.
Q. When you come to Nantucket could you give us your favorite activities here?
A. As I said, a swim at Cisco beach, and going to Cisco Brewery is a great summer day. Love to go see a band at the Chicken Box. Last summer we saw one of my favorites, Jamestown Revival. Dinner at Cru on a beautiful summer evening is the best, and walking the shops on the Old Wharf. I love Wauwinet too, my nephew and his wife had their wedding reception there and it was just spectacular. To me there is no place more ‘home’ than the Cape and Islands. It’s heaven.