September 13th, 2015
03:06 PM ET

CNN's Dylan Byers joins Reliable Sources for debut appearance as CNNer & previews Wednesday's Debate

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, CNN’s senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, joined anchor, Brian Stelter for his debut appearance as a member of the CNN team, and previewed Wednesday's CNN Reagan Library Presidential Debate.

For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com. A video, text highlights, and a transcript of the discussion are below.

Reliable Sources airs Sundays, 11 a.m. to noon (ET).

MANDATORY CREDIT for reference and usage: “CNN’s RELIABLE SOURCES”

VIDEO:

What's different about this year's debates

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS:

CNN’s senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, on whether candidates are complaining less about the two-tier debate criteria and why: “…yes, I mean you have to think about - how many candidates do we have left on that undercard stage now and how relevant are they?  We have 11 candidates in the main event.  You have Rick Perry who has recently dropped out of the race. I wouldn't be surprised if by the time we get to the next Republican debate, we don't even have enough candidates to have an undercard debate.”

Byers on the numbers he believes CNN will generate for the GOP debate in comparison to FOX News’ debate: “So, we said 24 million viewers for the FOX News debate.  Now, that was sort of opening night, right?  I mean, I watched the Pats-Steelers game on Thursday.  I don't know if I’m going to watch Thursday night football next week. So I don't know if it's going to be quite as high.  I am putting it at about 18 million to 20 million.  That said, Donald Trump obviously generates a lot of interest.  We're out of summer and into the fall. I think more people are watching because of that.  But I put it in 18 million to 20 million, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went higher and even match what FOX News put up.”

Byers on unique level of interest the this campaign has generated early on: "The whole sort of conventional wisdom that the early days don't matter and that we're not - you know, this election doesn't really start until we all roll into Iowa - that doesn't apply this time.  Donald Trump has made this a major national media event that the country is paying attention to and that the country can't ignore because you can't go to an airport, you can’t go to a bar without seeing Donald Trump in the Republican primary story, you know, rolling out as it is."

Byers on whether he believes this debate can make or break any of the GOP candidates: “Sure.  I think it's all about promotion and relegation.  If you are Carly Fiorina and you are on the debate stage now, you have to prove why you are there.  If you're Ben Carson and you find yourself standing at center stage, you have to demonstrate to the American people why you deserve to be there.  By the same token, if you are someone like a Walker or Paul who has been falling in the polls or any of those candidates at the wings of the stage, you also have to demonstrate why you shouldn't be kicked off that stage.  And so doing that in front of 20 million, 24 million people as opposed to two million people is a huge opportunity, and it's free press and it's a big deal for these candidates.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: So, joining me now and making his debut as CNN senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers.  He’s out in Simi Valley this morning.  Dylan, welcome.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS:  Thank you so much.  It's a privilege and a pleasure to be your colleague.

STELTER:  You know, this Wednesday you are out there already at the debate site, Simi Valley.  The candidates who haven't been polling as well are going to be on at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time and the higher ranking candidates will be on at 8:00.  You wrote a lot about this for Politico this summer, all the hand-wringing about the two-tiered FOX debate.  This time we're not hearing much complaining.  Do you think candidates have essentially accepted their fates at this point?

BYERS:  Well, yes, I mean, you know, you have to think about - I mean, how many candidates do we have left on that undercard stage now, right, and how relevant are they?  We have 11 candidates in the main event.  You have Rick Perry who has recently dropped out of the race. I wouldn't be surprised if - by the time we get to the next Republican debate, we don't even have enough candidates to have an undercard debate.

STELTER:  That's very interesting.  We saw Rick Perry dropping out on Friday.  And you wonder if the debate was part of the reason why, knowing the debate was coming.  This week, Donald Trump suggested that the profits from the CNN debate be donated to charity.  And, frankly, the story kind of seems dead now.  There hasn’t been much talk about it.  And CNN hasn’t commented on it.  But it’s true that these events cost a lot to produce and there aren’t a lot of advertising revenue. So, what is your ratings prediction?  How many viewers do you expect to have tuned in on Wednesday?

BYERS:  That’s a great question.  So, we said 24 million viewers for the FOX News debate.  Now, that was sort of opening night, right?  I mean, I watched the Pats-Steelers game on Thursday.  I don't know if I’m going to watch Thursday night football next week. So I don't know if it's going to be quite as high.  I am putting it at about 18 million to 20 million.  That said, Donald Trump obviously generates a lot of interest.  We're out of summer and into the fall.

STELTER:  Right.

BYERS:  I think more people are watching because of that.  But I put it in 18 million to 20 million, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went higher and even match what FOX News put up -

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER:  My prediction has been a little lower.  I’ve been thinking 16 million and 17 million.  Then again, there might be people who missed the FOX debate, who want to see what all the fuss is about, who want to see Trump on that stage now, and maybe that’s going to drive viewers who didn't watch a month ago.  So, there’s sort of those two dynamics I guess in play.

BYERS:  Well, I think that's true.  And I also, if you look at the highlight reel you just played, right?  I mean, these debates are some of the most exciting moments of the political season, and that debate just a month ago, I mean, there were fireworks for the full 90 minutes.  So, you know, I think a lot of people who missed that debate are looking forward to tuning in to this one.

STELTER:  And I think we can’t underestimate the significance of the fact that these candidates get face time in front of 15 million, 20 million, 25 million viewers as opposed to in prior debate cycles, two or three million.  It’s a huge advantage from past seasons, isn’t it?

BYERS:  It's an enormous advantage.  I mean, if you think about it, like you said, this time in any other political cycle, we're looking at 2 million to 3 million viewers.  The most viewers for any cable news primary debate was less than 7 million.  You had 24 million last time.  We're going to put up similar numbers this time around.  The whole sort of conventional wisdom that the early days don't matter and that we're not - you know, this election doesn't really start until we all roll into Iowa –

STELTER:  Right.

BYERS:  - that doesn't apply this time.  Donald Trump has made this a major national media event that the country is paying attention to and that the country can't ignore because you can't go to an airport, you can’t go to a bar without seeing Donald Trump in the Republican primary story, you know, rolling out as it is.

STELTER:  Yes, I feel like at dinner parties people used to talk about the weather when they got there, and now, they’re talking about Trump.  He’s sort of our national conversation.  Before I have to go, do you think this debate is make or break for any candidate in particular?

BYERS:  Sure.  I think it's - it's all about promotion and relegation.  If you are Carly Fiorina and you are on the debate stage now, you have to prove why you are there.  If you're Ben Carson and you find yourself standing at center stage, you have to demonstrate to the American people why you deserve to be there.  By the same token, if you are someone like a Walker or Paul who has been falling in the polls or any of those candidates at the wings of the stage, you also have to demonstrate why you shouldn't be kicked off that stage.  And so, you know, doing that in front of 20 million, 24 million people as opposed to two million people is a huge opportunity, and it's free press and it's a big deal for these candidates.

STELTER:  Sure is like fight night. Dylan, great to have you here.  Thanks so much.

BYERS:  Thanks so much, Brian.

###END INTERVIEW###

 


Topics: Brian Stelter • CNN • Reliable Sources
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