Patterico's Pontifications

10/8/2008

About That Town Hall Debate Format

Filed under: General — WLS @ 12:46 pm

Posted by WLS:

Lots of grumbling today from the McCain camp about the way last night’s debate was handled.  I don’t understand why they are surprised.

When you have about 100 people in the room, and they are asked to submit questions to the moderator — with the moderator selecting 10-12 questiosn to actually ask the candidates — you’re going to end up with 10-12 questions that the moderator thinks are important. 

The moderator is going to ask questions that he thinks are of interest to the greatest number of voters — thus you get the most bland and generic questions being asked.   

The better practice in the future would be to put all 100 questions on 3×5 cards, put them in a barrel and spin it around.  Pick them out at random and tell the moderator to shut up after reading them — nobody is watching to get his views. 

For the future — I’d like to see a panel of journalists serve as moderators sort of like the old Meet The Press.  The Commission on Presidential Debates could send each candidate a list of 20 potential panelists.  Since the Commission is bipartisan, the list should have ideological balance — it could include both opinion and straight journalists.  Much like jury selection, the camps could each strike 7 journalists from the list, leaving 6.  From those 6, three would be picked in a blind draw, with the first drawn as the moderator.   The panelists would be free to ask follow-up questions on topics raised by the other panelists.  Make the debate 120 minutes, with 10 minutes dedicated to each question — each candidate gets 2.5 minutes to give an initial answer, then a 5 minutes free-for-all.  Force them off their talking points.

If you had paid any attention at all to the campaign over the last 90 days, you heard very little of substance last night that was new. 

That’s a wasted opportunity.

 

— WLS

17 Responses to “About That Town Hall Debate Format”

  1. The result was brutally boring. Why not just call on people to ask their own questions? Oh I know, the ‘Jurassic Park’ moderator wouldn’t get to inject himself into the debate.

    bill-tb (26027c)

  2. The media is hellbent on not talking about any issues where Baracky’s views are a little bit, or in some cases, a lot bit outside of the mainstream.

    JD (f7900a)

  3. WLS,

    Don’t know how old you are, but the panel is what they used to do. And it almost always ended up with a big Left bias. That’s why the GOP signed onto the CPD in the first place. A single moderator at least focuses the responsibility for fairness on a single, accountable person, rather than letting everyone on a panel assume/pretend the others will balance them out.

    Karl (f07e38)

  4. You want fireworks? Let both candidates ask each other a couple of questions.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  5. What I think would be interesting is a selection of topics, perhaps submitted by pundits, but only the broad topic. Then have a topic flash on the screen and whosoever turn it is get to ask the other candidate a question on that topic; whatever question that candidate can come up with. the moderators function would be to keep the answering candidate on topic.

    Thomas (a3c869)

  6. aunursa,

    I corrected the spelling of Israel and Semitic for WLS. Thank you for the heads up. It’s always helpful to have another set of eyes.

    DRJ (c953ab)

  7. I don’t know why McCain though he would get a fair shake at an event managed by anyone in the MSM. Maybe he just ain’t kept up with the treatment of Palin, or the treatment that he has received, which was bad enough though not on the same scale as Palin’s.

    It seems unlikely that an undecided audience screened by Gallup would produce a Sahara of issues that might just favor McCain. So either Gallup is in the tank (which I don’t yet believe) or Brokaw’s bunch insured the proper question selection. I’m voting for the second option.

    Our current political debates are crap. always will be. (thx, Karl.) If the media has a part in question selection, it will hurt conservatives. Every time. So either can the debate style and get the media out of it, or live with the results.

    Someone should make the MSM the issue. The polls show that Americans are convinced that the MSM is biased in the extreme. I believe there is an undercurrent of respect and sympathy for Palin that stems directly from her treatment by the media. Many believe that Palin is not qualified for the Presidency, but are not scared away. Perhaps that is because they know she will be the VEEP, or maybe it’s because they respect her perseverance and attitude in spite of the treatment.

    I absolutely believe that there is a market for conservative news organizations that has not been tapped, and that includes Fox. A conservative Mcpaper like USA Today for national/internationa news, with space for local reporting. Sell local ads, that kind of thing. America is much more conservative than our media. Someone should capitalize on that fact.

    Scott (7b485d)

  8. Oh, yeah, I forgot. Boring might be the best thing that could have happened. Everyone is likely to forget about it. I keep trying.

    Scott (7b485d)

  9. If the candidates could ask each other two questions … what questions would McCain ask Obama? What questions would Obama ask McCain?

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  10. WLS, the problem is the COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES! They are led by fossils and only know fossils to be the “moderators” of these “debates”. What would have been great last night is this. Two people with microphones walking among the audience and letting them just ask whatever questions they wanted. No filter. Just someone should be there to make sure that the candidates answered each question in a timely matter. Would there have been some possible doozies? Of course! But that is a town hall. Not what we saw last night. Until the COPD gets new leaders who have a clue on new media, we will be “treated” to these debacles.

    Mark J. Goluskin (7d94a9)

  11. I wish they would let outright partisans on both sides ask questions. These boring “nonpartisan” questions just make candidates recycle campaign speeches.

    none (aa02bf)

  12. COPD

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a disease that is entirely preventable.

    It sounds like what the Commission suffers from. They’ve been inhaling the deadly smoke generated by legacy outlets despite knowing it would kill them.

    Horatio (783c7d)

  13. No. Go Old School. Lincoln-Douglas style. First guy talks for 20 minutes. 2nd guy responds for 40 minutes. First guy closes for 20 minutes.

    Next debate, reverse the order.

    No moderator. Don’t like the questions from moderators? The candidate can ask PLENTY of questions in 20 or 40 minutes and if the other guy doesn’t respond, people will draw the obvious conclusion.

    If modern attention spans are too short to take 20/40/20 ( I think L vs D went 30/60/30) you can try 5/10/5 or 7/14/7. 7/14/7 would make a nice, tidy 30 minute package for TV! Wouldn’t that be a hell of a show to run 5 nights a week before the election!

    Arthur (6a21b4)

  14. 7/14/7

    Good idea!

    AOracle (db2f44)

  15. Is it impossible for anyone to answer a question anymore? Neither candidate answered one question with anything substantive. Fingerpointing and deception seem to be the tactic for both.

    When did it become acceptable to outright lie? I am sick and tired every candidate thinking we are all stupid sheep they can spin (lie) to and we’ll all just say “duh, okay.”

    Seems to me the only vote that really is a throw away vote is the one cast for either one of these yayhoos. I vote every election and I’m done voting for the best of the worst.

    L Andress (2c3e49)

  16. Why should the mod or mods be journalists? They represent a discredited occupation, and add no value to the debate. You’d do better using scroungy toothless wretches from a homeless shelter.

    Kevin R.C. O'Brien (67dad8)

  17. It is too bad none of the questions were, “Summarize your experience in economic, fiscal, and monetary policy.”

    Michael Ejercito (a757fd)


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