A better variation on the CNN format is to hold two debates on consecutive nights with participants in each determined by draw. Think of it as a two-night mini-series. Interest would build, not wane. It’s more time for wall-to-wall coverage, analysis and more opportunity for the network stars to shine. Some of the press will spend an extra night in the host city and the venue must be available on consecutive nights, but these are details that can be worked out.
The annual NFL draft of college football players is televised three consecutive days. The NCAA college basketball Final Four is held on Saturday and Monday nights. The host network should like the ratings and another prime-time event. The Republican National Committee should relish a second night in the spotlight. The intellectual diversity of the GOP field of serious candidates would be a compelling contrast with the Democrats’ small, lackluster, ideologically similar group.
Republicans have the strongest, most serious group of candidates since 1980. It’s not the job of cable networks to narrow the field prematurely. It’s the job of the voters.