One of our regular commenters XWL said he'd written something along those lines a few weeks ago:
[I]nvite four candidates from each party to bi-weekly debates....XWL has another post today, and he notes that Patrick Ruffini just wrote:
Have each candidate be the "host" for ten minutes at a time, asking questions to the four opposing party candidates. Have a moderator ensure that they don't use their time to ask 9 minute questions full of their own campaign talking points, but instead reward candidates for engaging the other side directly....
By forcing the two sides together as early as possible, that would change the tone of these debates from monologue to dialogue. It would be up to each candidate to decide whether that dialogue should be shrill, informative, cooperative, or combative. This would give the primary voters real information on how these folks would perform come general election time, and it would generate far more interest amongst that big group of independents who sit these things out till the last minute usually.
With candidates trying to shore up their general election creds, who will be the first to challenge a debate across party lines this year? ... It would be a risky move, and a gutsy one. Think of the huge earned media moment it would be, giving us the excitement of a general election slapdown a year early. It would be a make or break moment for a candidate a few points back looking to roll the dice. If you were looking to mess with the other party's frontrunner by elevating a top-tier challenger, this would do it. And it would teach the voters vastly more about those candidates than the current debates joint appearances can.That seems to make it pretty obvious that frontrunners won't do it.
XWL has another idea: Have the candidates "send their 'policy experts' and 'advisers' out into the internet to have debates with each other."
When we pick a President we aren't just picking a single person, we are picking a team, and I want to know as soon as possible what the make up of that team will look like. A Bloggingheads type format would be perfect, with dingalinks, and a relatively unstructured time frame. Would Clinton have beaten Bush in 1992 if we had known it would have been a bunch of dweeby munchkins, a few crusty Carter leftovers, and heavily favoring academic over real world folks? Likewise, in 2000 if folks had known Bush was skipping past his father, and even Reagan to pick folks with experience in the Nixon and Ford years, would Gore have won more than the popular vote (although in this scenario I think he would have had a stable of far lefty policy wonks that would make Hillary look like Ayn Rand, so he probably would have lost resoundingly, even against the Bush/Ford/Nixon team).Any more creative ideas out there... and good arguments for getting the candidates to submit to them?
Could any of the Republicans get Colin Powell to speak on their behalf? Would Clinton be crazy enough to dust off Albright? Does anyone know who Obama's people are or what his cabinet would look like? Does McCain have any friends (aside from a few in the media)? Would Rudy look past the five boroughs for advisers?