I haven't watched any of the debates. I have checked in on them on Twitter. It's always interesting to see what people are saying. I'm not sure that they are all that illuminating. Because someone is a good debater doesn't make them a good leader -- or President. As I understand it from Twitter and the punditry (I do check in on what the pundits have to say), the Republican Presidential Debate on Wednesday evening was something of a fiasco. But should we be surprised? Having ten people on the stage, with two hours to get the job done, it's not surprising that things went awry. Candidates have their agendas. Moderators have their agendas. Most likely they will be at cross purposes. If they could winnow things down to maybe five people they might get more done -- or at least have some substantive conversation. The Democrats used their first debate to get down to three candidates. They can have a pretty good conversation about issues, because each candidate has more time to speak.
I once moderated a debate. It was a city council election in Lompoc, California. I was a columnist for a local paper and leader of an interfaith group. The former mayor suggested that it might be interesting to have a conversation with candidates in a church setting. So, we set it up. I think there were six candidates. I put together a set of questions drawn from input from church members. I asked the same question to each candidate. Then at the end each candidate had a couple of minutes to make a closing statement. It went pretty well. By asking the same question to each candidate there was no gotcha moments. I think I even sent the questions to them beforehand so they knew what was coming. No surprises -- just an opportunity to speak to issues of concern.
Perhaps these presidential debates could use the same format. Everyone gets to address an issue such as the national debt or taxes. They would all have the same amount of time. No surprises. No gotcha questions. Nothing specific to a candidate. Of course that doesn't seem to draw an audience. But such a method might take the moderators out of the picture. They're there to ask questions and facilitate the conversation. They might even want to use the green, yellow, red light timing system! Of course, candidates will say what they want to say. But maybe not!
Just and idea that might work!!