I'm sitting here watching Romney and Gingrich slug it out with each other in an NBC debate. Gingrich completely upset Romney' plans in South Carolina. So now they are playing for high stakes in Florida.
High stakes means high tension on stage.
It's dramatic - and dispiriting too. They are getting bogged down in Romney's tax rate and Gingrich's lobbying contracts, the ad hominem stuff which seems to suck the life out of political debate. It is maybe a bit TOO entertaining for our own good. Lurid and dramatic isn't necessarily a good thing.
I think it would be better if at least once you gave candidates - and their chosen staff - an tangible problem or crisis to solve in a simulation. It is one of the tried and tested way to hire people, after all. You give them an actual problem or group discussion or team exercise or document to work through. You ask them to do the kind of things they would have to do on the job itself. Give them a day of real-time challenges with limited and conflicting information, and see how they and their advisors deal with it. We'd learn about their decision-making ability.
No candidate would willingly agree to it, most likely, as it would be too risky and potentially revealing. Candidates don't even want to answer hypothetical questions, let alone simulations.
We DO test people on their ability to run a campaign, give a stump speech, raise money and kiss babies. And to some extent we may test them on their persuasive rhetorical ability.
But we don't have any idea how they'd deal with the 3am telephone call that wakes them up in the White House, which says there is a serious problem out there. We don't have any real sense of their priorities. And that is what we ultimately need to know.