From my USA Today piece out today:
After watching all 19 debates, my attitude is: bring ‘em on. What the debates achieve is yanking unscripted moments out of even polished candidates, a phenomenon at giant panda-level of endangerment amid our carefully choreographed political scenes.
No doubt, some memorable moments were planned. As Mitt Romney might say, I’ll bet you $10,000 that Newt Gingrich had practiced the outraged speech he fired at CNN’s John King when asked about the “open marriage” allegations. But Rick Perry’s “oops” moment, when he forgot one of the three federal agencies he was planning to nix, sure wasn’t. And when an agitated Romney, explaining how he had inadvertently hired illegal immigrants, said, “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake. We can’t have illegals,” you can guarantee the campaign never tested the remark with a focus group.
Granted, I’d love to see some changes to the debate formats (including longer answer times, and more inclusion of low-polling candidates in the early months). But I hope this number of debates becomes the new normal for primary seasons. And while I doubt it will be possible this cycle to get more than three debates between Obama and the GOP nominee (why would Obama agree?), it would be great if in the future the general election debates are also more numerous.