One of the problems with the coming Republican debate on Thursday is that with 10 candidates in a two-hour format, and allowing for the time taken by the moderators for their questions, that averages out to at most 10 minutes per person. But the stage will contain people who are anxious to make a big impression and want to make sure they are noticed. Furthermore, they are not used to just waiting silently and this can pose a problem for the moderators if people start interrupting each other.
According to Bloomberg News, Fox News has plans to ensure that each candidate gets roughly equal time.
According to two people familiar with the network’s plans, candidates will get one minute to answer each question addressed to them by moderators Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier during the program, which begins at 9 p.m. Eastern time on August 6.
Candidates who are called upon will be given only 30 seconds for rebuttals. If a candidate’s name is invoked during someone else’s answer to a question, that candidate will get a chance to respond for a length of time at the moderator’s discretion.
This shows the pointlessness of the whole exercise. How can such a format provide anything substantive when a candidate has just one minute to answer a question on economic or social or foreign policy? They only have time to regurgitate a canned answer. And if the moderators try to ask a more detailed follow-up question, then that candidate will get more time. You can be sure that each candidate’s team will have stop watches to monitor how much time their person got to speak and will complain loudly about any inequality.
Furthermore, this policy will encourage each candidate to not name others in order to avoid giving them extra time. But what if a candidate makes a statement that references another candidate’s position but does not refer to them by name? They will still demand the right to respond. These candidates (and the moderators too for that matter) have big egos and will demand the right to speak and will resent being shushed when they try to do so. (Remember Michele Bachmann in the 2012 debates repeatedly and plaintively calling out “Anderson! Anderson!” in order to get moderator Anderson Cooper’s attention because she felt she was not given enough time to speak?)
Furthermore none of these candidates are known for their retiring natures and they will all seek to outdo each other in pandering to their base of voters. Once they get going, especially Trump, Cruz, and Huckabee, it will be hard to get them to stop without being downright peremptory and that will not look good. Maybe they should have something like the Academy Awards where increasingly loud music drowns out the words of people who exceed their time limit.
In short, I expect to see a lot of interruptions and displays of short tempers and peevishness on the part of the candidates and moderators.
Good entertainment, if no way to select a national leader.