The media continues to report that many Republican voters are still unsure about GOP  front runner Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials and if he is the best candidate to beat Barack Obama in November.

To capitalize on this skepticism Fox News’ Brett Baier who moderated the South Carolina GOP debate on Monday revealed to the New York Times that he wasn’t satisfied with the answers Romney has given on several subject and decided that it was time to get tough on him even if his opponents wouldn’t.

In a rare behind the scenes look at debate preparation at Fox, the New York Times‘ Jeremy Peters reports on what went on as Baier and his fellow questioners readied themselves for the nationally televised debate.

There is no doubt that despite the fact that Baier’s bosses had the final say on the questions to be asked, that he wielded a great deal of leeway.

Baier whose interview with Romney in November seemed to rattle the candidate said that he is just trying to get to the truth.

Mr. Baier said he had no desire for a repeat of his earlier interview with Mr. Romney. “It’s not my job to rattle anyone,” he said. But he was not about to let Mr. Romney get off easily. As they ran through a draft script of the questions, Mr. Baier and his colleagues planned 12 questions for Mr. Romney, more than for any other candidate. One he was intent on asking was whether Mr. Romney would release his tax returns.

“We’ve got to get that question in,” Mr. Baier said during the planning meeting on Monday. He did, and Mr. Romney said that he was leaning toward releasing them in April, after he filed his 2011 returns, although he did not give a firm commitment.

After the debate, Mr. Baier said he was surprised. “I expected him to dodge, and we were ready to follow up again,” he said, adding that he was still not entirely sold on Mr. Romney’s response. “It’s not a firm date in April. And it’s clearly not happening before the primary on Saturday.”

Mr. Baier and his colleagues pressed Mr. Romney on more than just his tax returns. Kelly Evans of The Wall Street Journal, one of the moderators, asked him how far he would go as president to keep the financial system afloat.

Another moderator, Juan Williams, tried to pin him down on whether he was alienating Latino voters with his views on immigration. “Governor Romney, your father was born in Mexico. You still have family there, yet you have taken the hardest line of anyone on this stage on immigration reform.”

That question seemed to slip through Fox’s editing process. As Mr. Baier and his colleagues were writing their script, some expressed concern that the question was too politically charged. Mr. Baier and Mr. Williams disagreed. With their superiors out of the room during one editing session, Mr. Baier flashed a smile and said, “Let’s just do it.”

At one point during the prep session, Gerald F. Seib, the Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, asked in earnest, “Does anyone have the feeling like we’re ganging up on Romney?”

Mr. Williams, a commentator for the network, did not miss a beat. “No.”

Was the deck stacked against Romney on Monday?  Well if a liberal like Gerald Seib wonders if they aren’t picking on Romney, the answer is clear.

So much for being an arm of the Republican Party.

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