This post has been corrected.

Salem Radio's Hugh Hewitt has been named as part of a Q-and-A during a Republican primary debate hosted by CNN, in September in California. Given how debates have multiplied and evolved over the past 30 years, it's precisely what we'd expect.

Since 1988, the number of debates that have accompanied the primaries has exploded. That has happened as the number of debates moderated by cable news and other outlets has increased dramatically. There's almost certainly causality at play. Here are the number of moderators, culled from the American Presidency Project, over each election. (Many debates, we'll note, involve multiple people, including those like Hewitt who simply ask candidates questions.)


Since 1988, there have been far more Republican primary debates than Democratic ones, a function of the incumbents and a particularly chock-full 2012 calendar. Even so, the split by network is remarkable. NBC has had more moderators at Democratic primary debates; Fox News Channel has had far, far more at Republican ones.


Notice, again, how many moderators are from non-major-network outlets. But that includes a diverse array of sources: Spanish-language networks, newspapers, radio and online sites. This is less about the fracturing of the media landscape than it is a diversifying of the debate landscape. Hence Hewitt, a radio host moderating a Republican debate -- the largest bar on the above graph.

Hewitt has a way to go before he reaches the top ranks of moderators. The king of debate moderators, of course, is Jim Lehrer, who is repeatedly picked to host the all-important presidential debates ahead of general elections. (He had retired before 2012 but felt he "had to" moderate that year when asked.) Right behind him is Brian Williams, who we suspect won't be tapped in 2016. Then frequent hosts from CNN and Fox News.


RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has set a hard limit on the number of debates in 2016, hoping to avoid the messiness (and gaffe-iness) of 2012. As for the Democrats, it's not clear whether they'll have any debates. The two things we will predict: Hewitt will not be the only non-TV participant in a debate. And in October 2016, look for a still-retired Lehrer to grudgingly appear on your TV.

This post originally stated that Hewitt would be moderating the first GOP debate. Hewitt will only be participating in the Q-and-A, and there's an earlier one in August. True to form, it is being moderated by Fox News.