The results on the CNN Florida Republican debate point to one thing: when limiting the stage to four or five candidates and a network panel asking substantive questions leads to an informed electorate in advance to an upcoming State contest. In the future, if we could limit the participants on the debate stage and involve the audience attending by asking them to rate each candidate answer, we could improve the quality and selection process of who the Party nominee should be.
The number of Republicans who announced a run for the presidency reached seventeen this cycle. Networks had to limit the stage to ten. This created a dilemma for providing voters a fair analysis of all candidates running. So networks put together a second “undercard” debate which allowed the remaining seven to be heard.
This format – a First Tier Stage and a Second Tier Stage – failed to give voters an in-depth understanding on where each candidate stood on issues. In the main debate, answers had to be short 30 second responses in order to allow all ten a chance to speak. Answers to important questions – whether on the economy or foreign affairs – failed to provide viewers with a clear understanding of where he or she stood on the issue. If a response had a criticism on another candidate’s position, a rebuttal response was allowed and then a back-and-forth debate the two would occur, cutting out the speaking times of the other eight candidates.
A better way of determining who should become the GOP nominee – using this election cycle as an example – would have been to bracket the candidates into four debates with four or five each. The network panel would ask a question and allow all four to respond with a fair amount of time each. Then, using an interactive device, the audience would rate each response to each question, which would then be tallied at the closing of the debate. The results would be aired as to who “won” with their responses and the media would be able to present those results and break down the successes and failures of each candidate response.
Who the candidates would be paired with in the initial debate could easily be decided by early polling. The combined results from polls concluding one week before the debates would place the candidates as follows:
Debate One would be candidates ranked: 1, 5, 9, 13, 17
Debate Two would be candidates ranked: 2, 6, 10, 14
Debate Three would be candidates ranked: 3, 7, 11, 15
Debate Four would be candidates ranked: 4, 8, 12, 16
The length of each debate would be limited to about 90 minutes so two debates would be held one evening and the next two would be held the following night. The subsequent debates would then pair candidates by how they were ranked by the attending audiences and their interactive results of ranking candidate answers and whether or not they drop out. No early debate stage would exceed six candidates unless the field immediately narrows to eight, in which case, the length of the debates would be over two hours and all would participate on one stage.
Four debates would drop down to three debates of five candidates, then after the Iowa Caucus or New Hampshire Primary, those three debates would then consolidate into one debate of six or fewer. This last debate was the final four; Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, exactly where we should be at this point of the primary process.
Unfortunately, I believe the media helped select who our final four are currently. I would rather put my faith in those who attended the debates dictate who my final four are.