Keller @ Large: Lame Debate Better Than None

BOSTON (CBS) – Kudos to the folks at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire for doing an excellent job staging last night’s nationally-televised debate among seven candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

And a shout-out to CNN for going to the time, trouble and considerable expense of producing the debate.

I don’t believe there is any such thing as too many debates in an important election, even if this one had too many candidates in it and was a bit far out from NH primary day, more than seven months away.

I always learn something from debates, and last night was no exception.

I learned that even as the candidates competed for the title of “most conservative,” there were moments of what seemed like relative moderation, for instance, a reluctance to re-open divisive debates over gay marriage and gays serving openly in the military.

I learned that Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and her husband have taken 23 foster children into their home over the years.

And I learned that none of the candidates seems to have bright ideas about how to spur job growth beyond the GOP staples of lower taxes, less regulation, and freer trade.

I’m not sure what all that means, but it’s all useful info.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

But there were some things I was curious about that I’m still curious about because the debate format did not allow for the most meaningful part of any debate, direct cross-talk among the candidates.

Watch Jon’s WBZ-TV report:

I did not learn if Mitt Romney is capable of defending his role in creating universal health care here under aggressive questioning because it wasn’t really allowed.

I did not learn whether Newt Gingrich is really serious about his campaign because no one challenged him on why he was off on a cruise while the campaign staff was bailing on him.

But I did learn that Ron Paul prefers Coke over Pepsi.

What am I supposed to do with that knowledge?

I don’t believe voters want all that fluff and extraneous formatting.

I believe they want to see the candidates, under pressure from each other, stand up for and explain their beliefs and track records.

Even a lame debate is better than none.

Better luck next time.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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