A trio of newcomers will co-moderate the second Republican primary debate Wednesday evening.
Fox News host Dana Perino, Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney, and Univision anchor Ilia Calderón will referee the seven hopefuls jostling onstage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
“I think it’s going to be a very lively debate. And what we want to avoid is an interview situation,” Varney told The Post ahead of the showdown.
“It is the candidates discussing the issues between themselves. That’s the objective here.”
With fewer than four months left before the Republican nominating calendar begins with the Iowa caucuses Jan. 15, contenders are scrambling for a boost.
“We expect it to be lively, because all seven of the candidates want to break through. They need to break through to get some momentum going into Iowa and New Hampshire,” Varney added. “And this is one opportunity to do that.”
Who is Stuart Varney?
Varney, 75, grew up in the United Kingdom, where he graduated from the London School of Economics.
His journalism career has taken him around the world, including outlets such as Radio Hong Kong, and what is now KOFY-TV in San Francisco.
In 1980, he was recruited to join the New York bureau of the newly launched CNN, where he hosted the business-focused programs “Business Day,” “Business Asia” and “Moneyline.” He jumped ship to CNBC in 2001, then went to Fox News in 2004 before shifting over to Fox Business Network when it launched in 2007.
Varney, who received American citizenship in 2015, says he’s “honored” to have been asked to co-moderate Wednesday’s debate.
“Where else in the world can someone with an obviously foreign voice go into high-stakes political debate, and tell Americans what’s going on in the campaign?” he asked.
“This is an outstanding country, and I felt what I think of as the warm embrace of America, despite my accent.”
Who is Dana Perino?
Though Perino, 51, has never moderated a debate before, she has plenty of experience in American politics.
Born in Wyoming and raised in Colorado, Perino graduated from Colorado State University Pueblo with a degree in mass communication and minors in political science and Spanish.
After bouncing around local journalism jobs in Colorado and Illinois, earning a master’s degree from the University of Illinois Springfield in the process, Perino made her way to Washington, working as a staff assistant and press secretary to Reps. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) and Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.), respectively.
After briefly moving to the UK with her British-born husband Peter McMahon, Perino returned to the US in 2001 to become a spokesperson for the George W. Bush Justice Department. She moved over to the White House that November and eventually ascended to the post of press secretary for the final 16 months of Bush’s presidency.
At the time, Perino was only the second woman to hold the role of chief presidential spokesman, following Dee Dee Myers.
After Bush left office, Perino went to Fox News, where she co-hosts the mid-morning program “America’s Newsroom” with Bill Hemmer and the late-afternoon gabfest “The Five.”
Who is Ilia Calderón?
Calderón, 51, grew up in Columbia and worked in regional and national media in that country before joining Telemundo in 2001.
Six years later, the mother of one jumped to Univision, where she was remained ever since.
Calderón currently hosts Univision’s evening newscast alongside Jorge Ramos, who famously clashed with then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle. She also hosts a weekly news magazine, “Aqui y Ahora” (“Here and Now”)
Behind the scenes, the moderators have been preparing for weeks to fine-tune their questions, polish potential follow-ups, and ensure candidates get roughly equal speaking time.
“We have at Fox an outstanding debate team,” Varney said. “We’ve been working on this for a long time.”
Looming over this debate, as during the first, is the absence of the commanding GOP frontrunner.
While Fox News’ Bret Baier, who co-moderated the first debate with Martha MacCallum, reached out to Trump about attending that event, Varney said “I don’t believe the moderators did” attempt to convince the 77-year-old to show up this time around.
The two-hour long debate is set to air on Fox Business Network, Univision, Fox News, Fox Nation and Rumble at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday.
A third debate has been scheduled for Nov. 8 in Miami.