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TV Column
Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 06/14/2011

GOP candidates tackle major issues during debate — Leno vs. Conan, ‘DWTS’ vs. ‘Idol’


Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich chat before they start the first 2012 Republican presidential candidates' debate. (EMMANUEL DUNAND - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Sensing viewers needed a break from all of those Important Topics discussed during last night’s GOP presidential candidate debate — you know, immigration, troop withdrawal, the economy, etc. — CNN’s moderator John King decided to question the participants about other pressing matters: late night hosts and reality shows.

“One of the other things we want to do is learn a little bit more about these candidates and their personalities,” King explained about 30 minutes into the debate. “Every time we go to break or come back from break, I’m going to ask the candidates, one at a time, a question I’ll call ‘this or that.’”

“These are not serious political issues,” King emphasized. “It’s just to show a little bit of the personal sides of our candidate. Sen. Santorum, I want to start with you.”

“Thank you,” former Sen. Rick Santorum replied wryly, getting laughs from the audience.

“Of course,” King said smoothly, then jumped right in: “Leno or Conan?”

(To which we thought: Really? Wasn’t this particular question settled many months ago?)

Santorum stammered a bit. “I’m — neither — probably Leno,” he decided, then quickly adding, “But I don’t watch either. Sorry.”

“That’s all right. The answer is the answer,” King reassured him.

But things got more decisive a few minutes later, when King posed the ultimate question to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: “’Dancing With the Stars’ or ‘American Idol’?”

“American Idol,” Gingrich said with no hesitation, drawing a loud cackle, which press reports say belonged to Rep. Michele Bachmann.

In addition to those pressing matters, other “this or that” queries included: Coke vs. Pepsi; spicy vs. mild; and Elvis vs. Johnny Cash.

See the video here.

By  |  11:02 AM ET, 06/14/2011

 
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