The Campaign Spot

A Genuine Successor to ‘The Russert Primary’: The Hewitt Primary.

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Hewitt Primary: Maybe the Toughest Contest for GOP Contenders!  

Finally, a genuine successor to “The Russert Primary”: The Hewitt Primary:

When radio host Hugh Hewitt questions Republican candidates at CNN’s first primary debate this fall, he says, viewers will be “much more likely to hear about the Ohio-class submarine than contraceptives.”

What, you ask at this point, is the Ohio-class submarine?

“The Ohio-class nuclear submarine is the biggest line item debate that will be held in the next 15 years,” Hewitt said in a Wednesday interview with The Huffington Post. “Presidential candidates ought to know about it. They ought to be up to speed on it. That tells me seriousness.”

Hewitt, 59, has carved out a niche in the conservative talk radio world as Mr. Serious, an unapologetic wonk in an industry full of bombast. And he’s ridden that reputation to fairly prominent heights lately, becoming perhaps the most important conservative media figure of the still-early 2016 election cycle.

Virtually all the prospective candidates have sat down for an interview with Hewitt. And Hewitt, in turn, has set intellectual bars that they must clear. Guests can expect to get into the nitty-gritty of foreign and domestic policy issues — and they know to come prepared, lest they be embarrassed on air. Often, they leave with homework.

“There’s something of a Hewitt primary that all these candidates are going to try to win,” CNN host Jake Tapper, an occasional Hewitt guest himself, told HuffPost.

For years, Hewitt has asked guests — whether politicians, journalists or think-tank fellows — if they’ve read Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower.

Lately, he’s also been asking about The Atlantic’s recent cover story on the roots of the Islamic State, as well as Robert Putnam’s just-published book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

An obvious observation: Hillary Clinton will never subject herself to questioning from Hugh Hewitt.

And I contend there is no equivalent to Hugh on the Left. (I’d put Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd somewhere in the center region.) There is not a single liberal media personality who enjoys interviewing prominent Democratic officials, offering them tough, challenging questions, tough follow-ups, and making his interview subjects sweat the details.

Members of the progressive aristocracy don’t treat each other that way. 

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