GOP debate moderator Maria Bartiromo: candidates 'need to grow up'

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Moderator Maria Bartiromo has a warning for the candidates in tonight's Republican presidential debate: Don't expect softball questions.

"All candidates, Democrats and Republicans, need to grow up and not think that anybody will be handling them with kid gloves," Bartiromo, one of the debate's moderators, told TheWrap. "We're all looking for the next leader of the free world. I don't think that there are any questions that are inappropriate."

Much has changed since the Fox Business Network's Bartiromo moderated the GOP debate in November. The Paris and San Bernadino attacks have shifted the national conversation, more candidates have dropped out, and Ted Cruz is challenging Donald Trump for the frontrunner spot while fielding questions about his eligibility to be commander-in-chief.

Bartiromo talked to TheWrap about what to expect, how she'll handle Trump, and whether or not CNBC, her former network, dropped the ball during its debate in October.

TheWrap: How will this debate be different than the last one you moderated?
Bartiromo: It's a really important debate because it's two days after the State of the Union address, you're two weeks away from Iowa and, for the first time, you're seeing voters really start to peel back the onion and understand better each of these candidates' proposals. I think it's a really important moment ahead of what's going to be an exciting election year.

The landscape has shifted dramatically in the last two months.
This is going to be the first time you hear the candidates react to what the president said at the State of the Union. So, right off the bat, that makes a difference. Secondly, you're talking about other stories that have occurred: increase in crime, increase in shooting. Also, look at where we are. We have just begun a new year with the worse stock market performance ever. Investors are really nervous right now. Not to mention, we're only two weeks away from the most important primary in Iowa and three weeks away from New Hampshire.

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GOP debate moderator Maria Bartiromo: candidates 'need to grow up'
Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina (R) gestures as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio looks on during in the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul gestures during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump is seen through the heads of audience members during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ted Cruz, right, speaks as Donald Trump looks on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (R) speaks as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens during the CNN Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the last GOP debate of the year, with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gaining in the polls in Iowa and other early voting states and Donald Trump rising in national polls. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Ben Carson speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. Carson said his experience as a pediatric neurosurgeon prepared him to make tough choices as a leader. Asked if he could be "ruthless" as a commander-in-chief and order airstrikes that could kill children, Carson said that when he told children heâd have to take out a brain tumor "they donât like me very much, at that point. But later on they love me." (AP Photo/John Locher)
Donald Trump, second from left, makes a point as Ben Carson, left, Ted Cruz, second from right, and Jeb Bush look on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is introduced during the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stand on stage as they are introduced during the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, left, and Donald Trump laugh during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Jeb Bush, right, makes a point as Ted Cruz looks on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Marco Rubio listens to debate moderator Wolf Blitzer during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ted Cruz speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the last GOP debate of the year, with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gaining in the polls in Iowa and other early voting states and Donald Trump rising in national polls. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the last GOP debate of the year, with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gaining in the polls in Iowa and other early voting states and Donald Trump rising in national polls. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich gestures as he speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) waves as he walks onstage during the CNN Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the last GOP debate of the year, with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gaining in the polls in Iowa and other early voting states and Donald Trump rising in national polls. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, left, and Ted Cruz stand together during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Jeb Bush, right, speaks as Ted Cruz looks on during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Donald Trump speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Carly Fiorina, left, responds to a question from debate moderator Wolf Blitzer during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Marco Rubio speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Jeb Bush speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Chris Christie speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Donald Trump, left, and Ted Cruz stand together during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ben Carson speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Donald Trump, left, and Ted Cruz shakes hands at the start of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (L) shakes hands with former Gov. Florida Jeb Bush before the start of the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Florida Sen. Marco Rubio greets retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson before the start of the Republican Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (L) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stand on stage as they are introduced during the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
2016 Republican presidential candidates Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, from left, Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon, Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc., Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, listen to the U.S. National Anthem during the Republican presidential candidate debate at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. With less than two months remaining before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary, middle-of-the-pack candidates hoping for a late surge in the polls have little choice but to come out swinging in tonight's fifth Republican debate. Photographer: Ruth Fremson/Pool via Bloomberg
Republican presidential candidates, from left, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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The narrative among Republican candidates has been that the economy is tanking. But just this week we got news of better-than-expected 292,000 new jobs created in December. Where's the disconnect?
Certainly when you look at the job numbers we're finally seeing an improvement. We're talking around 200,000 jobs created every month. The problem is that eight years after the financial crisis we actually should be a lot further along than where we are. And unfortunately, now you've got many people predicting a recession in 2016. So while we are seeing an improvement, often times it doesn't tell the whole story.

It seems that Donald Trump is going after Megyn Kelly again. Any worries there? Are you prepared for a possible Trump attack?
I don't think you can really prepare for that unknown bombastic comment. I'm not going to prepare one-liners to respond to any unexpected issue. What I am going to do is make sure I know my facts and my story cold.

Do you think Megan Kelly was right to ask Trump if he has issues with women? Was it a legitimate question?
I think Megyn Kelly did a superb job. After the exchange Fox News and [Fox News chairman and CEO] Roger Ailes stuck by her and made sure that the world knew that the network supports her, and so do I. I'm very comfortable with the question. I do not think it was inappropriate at all. I think at this point in the cycle all candidates need to expect all questions. This is no dress rehearsal. We're all looking for the next leader of the free world.

CNBC, your former network, came under heavy fire from candidates and journalists about the way it handled its debate. Do you think any questions were inappropriate?
Candidates should be ready for whatever comes their way because when you're sitting in the Oval Office anything can come your way. But I don't think it's necessary to be snarky or to be "gotcha." It's about getting to the issues that Americans care about.

Does that mean you think some of the questions during the CNBC debate were snarky or "gotcha?"
Yeah. I think there was a bit of a tone that indicated that. But I'm not here to criticize my former colleagues. I grew up at CNBC. I have respect for my former colleagues. I wish them well.

The Ted Cruz birther issue has become a hot topic in recent days. Will that come up?
I think when there's an elephant in the room you discuss it. This is an opportunity to understand whether or not this person has leadership qualities that are required. As far as the issue itself, I'm not sure about the validity of it. But certainly it's not a question I'm afraid to ask.



Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina didn't make the cut for the main debate this time. Is that good or bad?
I think it's better to have fewer candidates and more time to talk the issues through. That said, I think that Rand Paul has been very articulate, very smart about the issues that the country faces.

What do you make of his announcement to boycott the debate unless he's allowed back on the main stage?
Frankly, I think it's a huge missed opportunity. I hope he reconsiders. I think he probably will. I can't even imagine that he would give up an opportunity to speak to the American people in a national debate two days after the State of the Union.

Ratings for the debates, especially on the GOP side, have been through the roof. How much of that do you attribute to Trump?
The last Fox Business Network debate had 13.5 million people watching. It was a great boom to our network. I do think it's partly because of Donald Trump. Just his presence at this election has already been very valuable. He has created excitement that we haven't seen in a long time. I much prefer having people talking about the issues than the alternative.

The undercard debate airs today at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET. The main debate begins at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. EST. Both air on Fox Business Network.

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