it wouldn't hurt to try
This election cycle has seen a number of proposed changes to the format of the presidential debates, generally favoring longer response times and the inclusion of more candidates. Today, a bipartisan panel from the Annenberg Public Policy Center offered another recommendation to consider.
The report highlights declining debate viewership and proposes an overhaul of the timing format. One option detailed is the use of a "chess clock," in which each candidate is allotted equal speaking time that is counted by a ticking clock whenever he or she talks. This would significantly level the playing field among candidates; in the past, unequal time allotments have dramatically favored some contenders over others. For instance, in one 2011 debate, then-candidate Ron Paul was given just 89 seconds to talk.
The panel also suggests using historians, other academics, and print journalists as moderators instead of TV personalities to bolster the gravity of the debates. And aside from town hall events, the Annenberg panel would also eliminate the in-house audience, a move which would save time and encourage candidates to avoid crowd-pleasing but unserious one-liners.