Keller @ Large: What Needs To Change In Debates

BOSTON (CBS) – I’ll take a pass on trying to call the winner of last night’s Republican presidential debate, let alone the winner of all 20 of them. That is in the eye of the beholder.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

The people who care most about them – the GOP primary and caucus voters – have made it pretty clear so far even they don’t have a clear favorite.

But last night and all those many hours spent watching these guys over the past eight months have left me with a few impressions.

First, live audience debates in a race this important have got to go.

Almost all of the audience for these events are watching on TV, and having a crowd of partisans whooping and hollering at everything their man says is not only distracting, but distorting to the TV viewer.

We have no way of evaluating the makeup and IQ of the crowd in the hall; why on earth should they get to shout in our ear all the way through about how they think it’s going?

Second, either the debate organizers should work with citizen questioners to sharpen their question into something more than T-ball for the candidates, or they should dispense with them altogether.

If you noticed last night, Dorchester’s own John King had to step in every time to rescue those questions.


As far as the candidates go, Mitt Romney was his usual slick, competent self, and Ron Paul did his normal thing.

The more newsworthy developments were the continued implosion of Newt Gingrich, who whipsawed between manic, often hard-to-follow monologues, and periods of respose where he resembled Dr. Evil from the “Austin Powers” movies; and Rick Santorum, who abruptly abandoned years of campaign strategy and tried to sound reasonable.

Or maybe he was going for statesmanlike, it was hard to tell.

Anyway, they’re over until the real debates in the fall.

Bring on Brown vs. Warren – but no live audience, please.

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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