Bipartisan Group Urges Overhaul of General Election Debates

Democratic challenger, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, left, and Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, shake hands after participating in their second debate, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Davie, Fla. It was sponsored by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
Democratic challenger, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, left, and Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, shake hands after participating in their second debate, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Davie, Fla. It was sponsored by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
Democratic challenger, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, left, and Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, shake hands after participating in their second debate, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Davie, Fla. It was sponsored by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

(New York Times) – A presidential debate season that begins in mid-September. A television studio backdrop without a live studio audience. And a “chess clock” model, where each candidate is allotted 45 minutes of speaking time, which begins ticking down when they start talking.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan panel released recommendations aimed at overhauling the general election presidential debates, with the goal of halting declining viewership, especially among younger voters and Hispanics, and allowing voters to emerge with a better understanding of the candidates and their positions.

If adopted, the group’s proposals could have serious ramifications for the 2016 presidential debates. Already, the decision by network executives to limit the first two major Republican debates to the 10 candidates who are ranked highest in national polls has caused major consternation within the Republican Party.

“Debates are the only time during a campaign when voters get to see the candidates side by side, unfiltered, and improving that opportunity for the candidates and voters is what brought this group together,” said Anita Dunn, a senior 2012 campaign adviser to President Obama who helped him prepare for debates, and a co-chairwoman of the group.

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