Dana Perino told the Washington Examiner she will draw upon her experience as President George W. Bush‘s White House press secretary to push candidates past their talking points while moderating the second Republican debate for Fox Business on Wednesday.
Fox Business’s Stuart Varney and Univision’s Ilia Calderon will be moderating the Republican National Committee event alongside Perino at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.
“It kind of reminds me of when I would prepare President Bush for a press conference,” she said, explaining that she “would anticipate the questions and then, in that job, I’d think about the answers.”
“In this job, I’m trying to anticipate what they might say and figure out a way to go a little deeper,” she added.
During Bush’s second term, Perino served as both assistant to the president and as White House press secretary until the end of his administration.
As she prepares to take on such an important event in the Republican primary process, she has spent time trying to figure out “how can you get them to stop just talking, get them to stop just using talking points.”
“By now, if you’re a primary voter and you’re paying a little bit of attention, you’ve heard those,” she pointed out.
Perino, who hosts the Daily Briefing and co-hosts The Five on Fox News, is bracing herself for a group of candidates all seeking a breakout moment at the debate.
“There will be a lot more ambition and tension on the set because now it’s the second debate, and each of them needs to have some sort of breakout moment if they’re going to advance,” she said.
“I anticipate they’re going to be quite aggressive in some ways,” she predicted, “but in my opinion, aggression doesn’t always show good leadership.”
“And also talking over one another or being uncivil towards one another. That doesn’t work in my book either,” she added.
She emphasized the importance that each candidate follow debate rules and be mindful of time limitations.
After the last debate, Fox News faced some criticism for its use of “show of hands” questions, in which candidates are asked to raise their hands if they agree with a statement. The network used the format to ask about climate change or if they would support former President Donald Trump as the Republican nominee if he were convicted of a crime in one of his trials.
Perino said she has “no plans” to incorporate this style of question during the second debate.
“I can understand why those kinds of questions are very useful because it does give people a sense of where somebody is in an immediate visual way, and if there are any differences of opinion, it becomes apparent immediately,” she said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former Vice President Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are expected to take the debate stage on Wednesday, though the final lineup wasn’t announced by press time.