I gave been kicking this one around for a while and for whatever reason the smart people aren't knocking on my door to harvest mu ideas. Go figure.
This is easier to explain by example:
First, We seed the candidates based on past presidential runs, current and length of political position and lastly, name recognition.
So the GOP would have a field that looked something like this.
1. Rick Santorum (Highest ranked 2012 candidate).
2. Rick Perry.
3. Gary Johnson.
4. Mike Huckabee.
5. Lindsey Graham.
6. Chris Christie (I like to stagger governors and senators to make for more interesting debate.)
7. Marco Rubio (More or less arbitrary assignment over Rand Paul as both joined US Senate in 2010.)
8. John Kasich.
9. Rand Paul.
10. Scott Walker.
11. Ted Cruz.
12. Peter King.
13. Bobbie Jindal.
14. Jeb Bush.
15. George Pataki.
16. Donald Trump.
17. Ben Carson.
18. Carly Fiorina.
The Democrats would have a field that looked something like this.
2. Bernie Sanders.
3. Martin O'Malley.
4. Jim Webb.
5. Evan Bayh.
6. Michelle Obama.
7. Charlie Crist.
8. Ben Affleck.
9. Lyndon Larouche.
10. Bill Maher.
11. Brian Williams.
12. Candy Crowley.
Now we need a network to pull this off. We can use my Youtube channel until another venue develops. We can split the ad revenue. Here goes.
On a Monday night Carly Fiorina battles Ben Carson in an hour long (minus commercials) debate. There is no moderator as such. The candidates ask each other questions which reveals as much about them as do their answers. The closest thing we have to a moderator is a minimum wage guy in a suit who rings a bell if a candidate exceeds his time limit or restores order should there be a breach of protocol.
In this format, the audience decides who wins the debate. As with "American Idol" supporters call one of two numbers, one associated with Carson, one with Fiorina. Calls cost one dollar and a small percentage goes to the hosting network and the rest goes to the candidate's campaign. In this example Carson wins so he squares off against Trump on Tuesday. The winner bumps heads with Pataki on Wednesday.
This is not a detailed blueprint. It's not a perfect system but it would be better than anything we have seen in the past. As anyone can vote, Dems and Indies could vote in the GOP debates and vice versa. I don't see that as problematic and there are ways to get around that should it bother certain people.
The logistics of getting twenty candidates on one stage on the same evening....giant ugh! This proposal also addresses issues of fairness. The moderator is non-existent and thus cannot ask tougher questions to one candidate or to ignore one of the twenty.
The seeding might be done on the rank of campaign coffers to give the back of the pack more chances to earn revenue.
Parties might share the wealth by allowing last in the nation places like Vermont, New Jersey and Indiana to host the debates. They might also adopt a different state every night format.
The beauty of this debate format is that it could be repeated just as soon as one debate cycle ended. They might even start new debates before the prior series of debates ended. A preliminary to main event to be enjoyed by hardcore political dweebs.
Other considerations. If there is an excessive number of candidates they might consider a second tier series of debates to be viewed by those people who lament that there are but three C-Span channels. So whoever wins the second tier qualifies as the first night debater in the big show.
The powers that could be might consider pruning the number of candidates with each successive debate. Say the first series had eighteen. The second would have seventeen. the third sixteen and so on.
The powers that could be might also consider changing the format so that the later debates with smaller fields could only receive votes from registered party members. This would reduce the overall number of voters and also reduce the revenue. They might compensate by charging each voter say five or ten dollars. They might also allow additional votes for political party office holders.
As I said, this is just a rough sketch but this would be more engaging and more interesting than what we have done in the past. It would also generate revenue. Best of all, we wouldn't have to look at George Stehanopolous for any reason. Mr. Nine Figures is 86. Can there be a better selling point?