In light of the odd debate formats and less-than-stellar results we’ve been seeing on the Republican side of this election cycle’s presidential nomination contest, I’ve been thinking about what a perfect debate would look like.
I didn’t like the gimmickry of the CNN/Youtube debate, debates held by specific ethnic or advocacy groups lead to pandering, and Wednesday’s Des Moines Register debate seems to have left everyone cold.
Some people are getting sentimental for an old fashioned Lincoln-Douglas style debate, but not me. Right now there are too many candidates for a debate in that format. If nine guys each get two ten minute slots, you’re already at three hours. Imagine if they each spoke for 45 minutes! And aside from all that, I’m not sure I could handle 45 minutes from any one candidate right now.
This evening I’ve been brainstorming for a set of rules that might lead to an interesting and illuminating debate, and here are a few ideas that make sense to me.
- Trim the roster – there are too many candidates right now for any format to work. There are a few guys you could lose very easily and few voters would shed a tear. Hunter, Keyes, and Tancredo are no-hopers, and Ron Paul is barely even a Republican. He has a bunch of money but he’s never broken 10% in any poll, and he’s going to bolt the party pretty soon anyway. We’re now down to five candidates.
- Do away with the canned questions from pundits and the cutesy questions from the public – the questions should be submitted by the candidates themselves. Ground rules include: candidates can’t submit questions for themselves/can’t be asked questions that they submitted, questions much be issues-oriented (not personal or personality-oriented), questions must be less than 250 words long, each question must either be asked only once (of one candidate) or must be asked of every candidate in attendance.
- Candidates should be allotted five minutes speaking time to answer each question asked of them. If one candidate says something provocative or negative about another candidate, the other candidate gets a full five minutes to rebut.
- No notes are permitted and no podium or lecturn is to be provided. The candidates will each have only a microphone stand and a chair to sit in between questions.
- The debate is to be free of admission, and no tickets will be allotted or distributed to the campaigns. Seating is first-come, first-served. This will keep candidates from packing the audience.
- The debate will be conducted without commercial breaks and may only be broadcast in its entirety.
- Each candidate will be asked the same number of questions, so if anyone fails to get equal face time it’s only because his answers were shorter.
What do you think of these rules? Can you think of any other that you would add? Reasons to lose any of these seven? What improvements or innovations would you introduce?