Carson calls for change in debate format

Carson calls for change in debate format

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Ben Carson on Thursday called for changes in the format of future Republican presidential debates.

Carson called for more speaking times for candidates and for the next debates to have “moderators who are interested in actually getting the facts and not gotcha questions” following a debate in Colorado that sparked widespread criticism of CNBC’s moderators.

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“I’ve asked my staff to reach out to the other campaigns to talk about a change in format,” Carson, a frontrunner for the GOP’s nomination, told reporters in Denver ahead of a campaign speech at Colorado Christian University.

“And we’re looking for an opportunity to actually be able to explain what your program is, what your philosophy for leadership is and then be questioned about it,” Carson added.

Carson and several other candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night in nearby Boulder blasted the CNBC moderators for a fractious two-hour debate. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led the charge, ripping the moderators for asking celebrity real estate tycoon Donald Trump if he was running a “comic book” White House campaign and if Carson understood math. 

“I think the Cruz missile helped. That was excellent. It was a good way to use a Cruz missile,” Carson said, noting that the Republican audience in the debate hall also booed the moderators. 

“It’s not about me and gotcha questions, it’s abut the American people and whether they have the right to actually hear what we think,” Carson insisted Thursday. 

Carson addressed a packed event center at the evangelical university in northern Colorado, speaking to a crowd of more than 1,500 people, according to organizers. 

During his speech, Carson addressed those who question his presidential credentials and point out that he has never held elected office. 

"The Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic was built by professionals," he said to roaring applause.

John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute think tank at CCU behind the event, told The Hill that Carson "gives people permission to be proud of themselves as Americans." 

Carson has spoken twice at the institute's Western Conservative Summit in Colorado, earlier this year and in 2014, winning a straw poll for top GOP choices for president at the event both times. 

The retired neurosurgeon's address at the university Thursday came days after rival Trump questioned his Seventh-day Adventist faith — slams that Carson brushed off ahead of Wednesday's debate.

"Overall, Trump is way out of line on that and he shot himself in both feet by doing that," Andrews said.

Carson headed into the debate this week atop polls for the Republican nomination, surpassing Trump in Iowa and edging out the businessman in national surveying. 

“What it’s turned into is a ‘Gotcha!’ ” Carson said of the debate formats so far. “And that’s not really helpful for anybody.”

An aide indicated Carson’s campaign would be reaching out to other campaigns to discuss a change in format for debates immediately. 

The next debate is Nov. 10 in Milwaukee.

Several weeks before the debate, Carson and Trump threatened to boycott the event if CNBC scheduled a debate for longer than two hours or didn't allow for opening and closing remarks from the 10 candidates.

“I went out and said it’s ridiculous, I could stand up here all night. Nobody wants to watch three and a half or three hours … and in two minutes I renegotiated it down to two hours so we can get the hell out of here,” Trump said during the debate.

- Updated at 4:07 p.m.