The Republican debate nightmare

Zeke Miller writes that the Republican party faces an even worse debate problem than they had back in 2012 when the huge number of debates they held seemed to turn voters off as it gave their candidates many more opportunities to stumble and to attack each other.

They thought they had things under control this time by agreeing to limit the number of debates to less than a dozen. But this time it is the number of candidates that is creating an even harder problem. Six have already formally declared (Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee) and there are another 11 (Kasich, Jindal, Graham, Santorum. Bolton, Trump, Bush, Walker, Perry, Christie, King) who could join them. So there may be as many as 17 for the Republican nomination and who knows, maybe even more. How can you possibly have all of them on a stage at the same time, each person vying for maximum visibility? In a two-hour debate, that works out to about 7 minutes for each. And that does not even include the time required for questions from the preening journalists who will ask the questions and who like to gain maximum exposure too. Limiting the numbers by having entry criteria based on poll numbers or money raised will result in a huge outcry from those who are omitted. This is what the But this is what the Republican party and the media, especially Fox News, has created. By treating a whole bunch of Republican cranks as serious contenders for the presidency, they have created a bunch of egotists who think they have what it takes to run the country and brought this upon themselves.

Maybe they should adopt the free market principles they claim so fervently believe in and limit the debate participants to a fixed number (say four) and then give them out to the highest bidders. Who among them could object to that? A win-win!

I hadn’t realized that it has been decided that the first Republican debate will be in Cleveland this August, so we will have the dubious benefit of having the most candidates involved before they start dropping out. The ‘honor’ of holding the first debate may be linked to the fact that the Republican nominating convention will also be held here in July 2016.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party has decided on six debates and there will likely be at most five candidates (Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, Webb, and Chafee), none of whom are crazy, so they will likely be a more informative but less comical affairs than the Republican debates.


  1. anat says

    Maybe it’s time to do it like a sports championship, with preliminary contests and semifinals. They could be randomly split up into 4 groups and have members of each group debate one another.

  2. daved says

    The Road to the Final Four Loons. Wonderful. However, I think we can safely rule Trump out; he’s not really going to run. And that gets us down to 16, so now all we have to do is pick our brackets and see who emerges as the champion.

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