I propose that the debate actually be structured more like a debate, not like a free-for-all.
Here is my suggestion for the first in a new series:
1. Publically announce the question at least two weeks before the event, and be sure to communicate the question to each candidate as well as to the general public.
2. No opening statements.
3. Each candidate to be given five full minutes (and not a second more – cut off microphone at five minutes) to answer the following:
The national debt and annual deficits have been a frequently discussed issue for years. Take up to five minutes to (1) explain to the viewers the difference between the budget deficit and the national debt and (2) outline in as much detail as you can exactly what policy actions you propose to reduce or eliminate the annual deficit and to cap or reduce the national debt. Be specific.
4. Do NOT allow cross-talk, but rather proceed from one candidate to the next until all have had their five-minutes.
5. Have a clock prominently displayed to candidates and viewers and moderator counting down the time.
6. After all have responded, repeat the process so that each can respond to ideas raised by the other candidates, with no cross-talk allowed. In this way, the event does become, at least relatively speaking, a debate.
7. Conclude with a one-minute closing statement from each, with no cross-talk allowed.
Thus only ONE question (although one with multiple parts) is posed, and every viewer who wishes to do so can know the question in advance. The candidates could come in with prepared remarks, and then would have to respond on the fly in the second round to what the others have said.
8. For the next debate event, choose and likewise disseminate another question of comparable weight – on, say, trade policy, defense, or criminal justice reform.
That’s it. No loaded questions. No candidate-to-candidate or moderator-to-candidate interruptions. Enough time for each candidate to demonstrate knowledge of the issue and to offer meaningful responses, not simply sound-bites or platitudes.