“This or That,” Circa 2007

CNN’s John King, understandably, took some ribbing for his “this or that” series of questions during last night’s Republican presidential debate, questions about which King warned the audience at the start of the debate as follows:

Every time we go to break or come back from break, I’m going to ask the candidates one at a time a question I’ll call this or that. I give them a choice. These are not serious political issues. It’s just to show a little bit of the personal sides of our candidates.

(Suggested “this or that” questions came in via Twitter, just as CNN had hoped. There was this, for one, from Slate’s Dave Weigel: “This or that. Punch me in my smug face or order a hit on my dog because you’re so sick of answering this stupid question?” And that, from The Atlantic’s James Fallows: “Viewing audience: ‘slit your wrists, or run car in closed garage?’”

Um, Weigel or Fallows?)

So it was that viewers learned that Rick Santorum watches neither Conan nor Leno, Newt Gingrich likes “American Idol” more than “Dancing with the Stars,” Herman Cain will take deep dish over thin crust, Ron Paul prefers Blackberry over iPhone, Coke is it for Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney likes his wings “oh, spicy,” and, when it comes to Johnny Cash v. Elvis, Michele Bachmann wants “both.”

While King said he was “borrow[ing]” the concept from his “sports fan experience,” he was also borrowing from a CNN-hosted, Wolf Blitzer-moderated, seven candidate Democratic presidential debate circa 2007. Remember this?

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.