I find political debates by candidates to be frustrating in that they do whatever it takes to stay on message. Regardless of the question the answer seems to be “I am a smart patriot with way better plans than my deranged opponent”. Well, they would be fools to say anything else- but the debates have become little more than a chance for voters to observe the candidates under pressure.
I would like to see each campaign presented with a list of questions to answer, say 5 questions. Potential questions could be submitted to a web service and voted on to get the top 5. The questions can be fully loaded, politically and whatever people want. The candidates would have plenty of time to craft whatever responses they desire, using their advisors and any tools they need.
If the answers fail to address the question it will not be due to time or “message” constraints, and the lack of convenient excuses should yield results that are worth analyzing.
Maybe the League of Women Voters could be hired to supervise the creation of the questions, perhaps inviting opposing bloggers and journalists to formulate the list of questions.