Over the past couple days, both Donald Trump and Ben Carson decided to throw a temper tantrum over the format for the next Republican presidential debate being hosted by CNBC on October 28th. Well, the network quickly caved and is now working toward accommodating the demands that were outlined in a letter sent out by the campaigns.
Make no mistake about it, this is mostly driven by Trump – someone who fully understands that he was exposed during the length of the second debate.
In that letter, both candidates demanded that the debate last no longer than two hours and that opening and closing remarks be added. According to a tweet sent out by Trump, he doesn’t seem to understand why the Republican debate – with nearly twice as many candidates – can’t match the format offered to Democrats during their first debate. Of course, anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense can guess why a debate with 9-10 candidates might run substantially longer than one with only five.
Be that as it may, both Trump and Carson had threatened to boycott the event if the format wasn’t “fixed.”
Looking at the most recent polls, at least nine candidates should qualify to be on the main debate stage. Let’s assume that each is given 60 seconds for their opening and closing remarks (though 90 seconds is typically standard), that’s 18 minutes out of 120 devoted to just those statements. Then factoring in commercials which should account for at least 15 minutes, that leaves a grand total of 87 minutes of actual “debate” time. Now, divide that by the number of candidates (87/9), that gives each candidate less than 10 minutes of speaking time during the actual debate.
To put that into perspective, based on the numbers from the second debate, Trump spoke the most at 18:47 while Scott Walker (who was criticized heavily for not speaking enough and subsequently dropped out of the race soon after) spoke the least at 8:29. In other words, what Trump wants is for each candidate to have just over a minute longer to speak than the person who spoke the least during their previous debate.
So, what does this all mean? Quite simply, if CNBC gives Trump exactly what he wants, the next GOP debate is going to be an even bigger train wreck than the first two. Being that the sheer number of GOP candidates makes style more important than substance, each candidate will be even more desperate to stand out than they previously have been considering that they’re going to have far less time to actually speak.
The bottom line is, this isn’t about the length of the debate as much as it is about Trump and Carson trying to mask their glaring weaknesses. The longer a debate lasts, the more substantive it becomes. Neither Trump nor Carson are particularly versed on anything outside of ridiculous rhetoric or empty talking points, so the last thing either individual wants is a long debate filled with complicated political discussions over issues of substance.
Though I would expect nothing less from the current frontrunners for the Republican party’s presidential nomination – a party that’s become increasingly driven by ridiculous rhetoric and empty talking points.