Four years ago I criticized the "professional journalist" moderators as stupid fucks who dumb down an already dumb process.
Do you prefer diamonds or pearls? ~ an actual question asked of Hillary Clinton in a 2007 debateIt wouldn't be so bad if the "journalists" weren't bigger egocentric pricks than the candidates. The questions vacillate between predictable pablum (How would you fix the economy?) and the totally vacuous surprises (What Sarah Palin calls "gotcha questions").
In a debate where over a half-dozen clowns are fighting for attention the biggest Bozo is the one who will get noticed, like Jimmy McMillan and the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Figure Herm Cain beating out Backmann for the red nose award. Seven candidates, plus moderators who love the sound of their own voices, plus commercials and each candidate will get something like eight minutes to speak during the two-hour debate.
A Better Way
The link above was my suggestion four years ago. It still stands. Let the candidates choose the topics. Have a limited number of topics, like four, during a two-hour debate and announce the topics beforehand. Allow the candidates to respectfully question each other. And when we get to the two and three candidate debates nothing beats the traditional Lincoln-Douglas format.
I'm not delusional, things will never change. The news organizations like the current system because it showcases their celebrity talking heads. The candidates like it because it is a beauty contest that puts superficiality (which they are good at) above substance (which they generally suck at).
They could at least add swimwear.