The Republican primaries ought to be more fun next year than they were in 2012 for the simple reason that the field is so much better -- a lot of new faces instead of the same old ones. But the "debate" prospects aren't any better. With 12 or more candidates on stage, it's just going to be a battle-of-the-sound-bites circus that we'll learn nothing useful from. I like this idea:
Just bring out each candidate and let them respond to two or three questions from a panel of conservative journalists and/or policy experts. Jim DeMint hosted one of these on Labor Day 2011 to great effect. There’s no reason it can’t be replicated.
You’d still have time constraints but I’d rather have someone like Rand Paul, Rick Perry or Scott Walker, spend 3-5 minutes straight answering a handful of questions with the spotlight on them than the Gong Show type spectacles we’ve seen the last few go rounds.
And this one isn't bad, either:
Schedule three or four traditional battle royal debates with 12 candidates or whatever onstage, just so that everyone can say that they had some face time with a national audience and got to address a variety of issues. Beyond that, thought, schedule a few dozen one-on-one debates with the pairings to be decided by the RNC, the candidates themselves, and polls of Republican voters. One debate everyone would like to see, obviously, is Rubio versus Paul on foreign policy. Another, to contrast the views of the two strongest social cons in the race, would pit Huckabee against Ted Cruz. Another obvious one is Scott Walker versus Chris Christie to compare how they succeeded and failed as Republican governors in deep blue states. Those are no-brainer match-ups. Another, to give the tea-party heroes an opportunity to distinguish themselves from each other, would put Paul and Cruz head to head. We’d inevitably get a Bush versus Rubio debate too given the importance of Florida and likely a Walker versus Kasich debate to see which midwestern governor is superior. You can come up with interesting pairings as well as I can.
Of course, we couldn't expect anything like the Lincoln-Douglas debates to be offered in these short-attention-span days. We wouldn't put up with a candidate speaking for 15 minutes straight, let alone follow a 60-minute speech followed by a 90-minute response followed by a 30-minute "rejoinder." But just seeing them go head-to-head for 10 minutes would show us something. Then, when the field is narrowed to the final four (right now I'm thinking Rubio, Cruz, Walker and Paul), I'd really like to see a few roundtable discussions moderated by somebody who knows when to interject a question and when to just let them have at it.