After two Republican presidential primary debates, I’ve come to the conclusion that if the Republicans expect to win the presidency in 2016, they need to change the format of future debates—now.
Last night’s debate on CNN was a long, tortuous affair starting with the under-card debate, featuring the four lowest-polling candidates-–sans Jim Gilmore, who failed to meet the one percent threshold—trying their best to to remain relevant in an overcrowded field.
While there were some issues discussed during this debate, it may be best remembered for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s remarks referring to the fact that the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) fathered four children after the age of 67. He made that comment during a discussion on immigration. He also said that if he becomes president, “We’re gonna drink more,” referring to President Reagan’s habit of having a drink with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, with whom he often clashed during his presidency.
Those statements only underscored the uselessness of the under-card, or junior varsity debate, and made me wonder why I wasted my time watching it. Let’s face facts. None of these men—Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki—have a chance at the nomination as long as voters remain in an anti-insider mood, so let’s move on. They can remain in the race, if they choose, but they shouldn’t expect another opportunity to participate in a national debate.
That also goes for the bottom dwellers in the main stage debate. The number should be cut to a more reasonable five or six, down from last night’s 11, which often devolved in to a “food fight,” with candidates interrupting each other and jumping in as the night wore on. But maybe that’s what CNN wanted.
The image of Republicans squabbling only serves to give liberals in the media like Chris Matthews—who has referred to the GOP field as a “clown car”—more confidence that the Democrats will win the presidency next year despite the numerous scandals surrounding front-runner Hillary Clinton.
CNN will be hosting another GOP debate in December. In addition to trimming the field, they should also consider using a buzzer or bell to signal to the candidates that time has expired. They should also let the other questioners actually ask more than a handful of questions. Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash were largely invisible during the debate.
Also, no more three hour debates. Whose bright idea was that?
Let’s hope the RNC and CNBC—which is hosting the next debate—make the necessary improvements if they are truly interested in having a discussion about the issues, not just about Donald Trump.