Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich and long-shot Jon Huntsman say they’ll hold a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire on Monday. So how will it be different from the usual debates?
During the 1858 race for U.S. Senate in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and upstart Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln held a series of seven three-hour debates in towns throughout the state on the day’s hottest topic: slavery.
The debates had no moderator, and the candidates spoke in paragraphs rather than today’s rehearsed 45-second sound bites. In each of the debates, the first candidate was given 60 minutes to make opening remarks. His opponent was given 90 minutes to respond, and the first candidate was allowed a final 30-minute rebuttal.
Today’s Republican voters will be spared a bladder-busting three-hour talkfest. Tim Miller, a spokesman for the Huntsman campaign, says Monday’s debate is likely to last just an hour and will focus on national security and foreign policy. The question of whether to have a moderator, and whom it might be, has yet to be decided, he said.
Both candidates have expressed annoyance with how the Republican debates have been moderated thus far. Until recently Gingrich’s debate performances had been most noteworthy for his attacks on the media. In a September debate in California, for instance, he told moderator John Harris of Politico: “I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other.”