In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s CNN/You Tube debate debacle, one of the questions that should be asked is whether the primary debates are really necessary?
Yes, CNN bungled the debate. Given how they did during the last Democratic debate, hopes for a dramatic improvement when the Republicans took the stage were grossly misplaced.
Some would argue it was helpful for Republicans to be put on the spot to answer tough questions. While that may be true, Republicans generally face more adversarial questions from the MSM so I don’t know that the debate questions necessarily helped. It struck me that the focus of the debate became more about creating "gotcha" moments that the MSM could endlessly club the candidates with in the coming weeks.
The fact is that this year’s debates have been more like Presidential beauty contests than honest debates designed to bring out not only differences in policy positions between the candidates but reveal their character as well. Rather than focusing on clear policy differences (if there really are any) success in the debates comes down to who can come up with the best soundbite that can be replayed on talk shows and in news reports.
The debates also force voters to focus on who is most "electable" rather than vetting the candidates (think John Kerry in 2004).
As this year’s primary debates come to a close, both parties would be well advised to carefully examine what went wrong during this year’s debates and how they can improve them. It is the only time that Americans get to see their candidates without the benefit of media or campaign spin. Voters need to know who the candidates are and what they stand for. Based on this year’s debates, that’s hard for anyone to figure out.