Having 10 presidential candidates share the stage during Tuesday's Republican presidential debate won't make things easy for those trying to maximize what the public can learn about them in an hour and a half.
FOX News anchor Britt Hume will act as moderator and Chris Wallace, host of FOX News Sunday, and White House correspondent Wendell Goler will ask questions.
Wallace said last week the group was still fine-tuning its plans. "We've got 10 candidates, and each candidate gets one minute to answer a question, and you've got 90 minutes. Do the math. You realize you can't spend a lot of time on any one issue with any one candidate," he said.
To prepare for his first presidential debate, Wallace said he has been busy researching the candidates' records, trying to know them as well as the candidates themselves do.
"You know the things they will want to talk about. You know the things they might not want to talk about," he said. "The point isn't to play 'Gotcha,' but you want to get them really talking and reacting not only to our questions but to each other.
"All politicians are so well-scripted these days," he added. "You want to get them off their talking points and thinking and reacting in real time as the debate goes on."
Wallace said candidates will be asked about Iraq, the economy and social issues. They also will get a chance to respond to what other candidates say, especially if criticism is directed their way.
Wallace said he wasn't impressed by the Republicans' first debate at the Reagan Library in California, an event produced by a rival network, MSNBC. "I think we'll do a better job. I thought it was too frantic. Too many questions. Too many silly questions," he said. "I mostly watched that debate and thought, 'Well, there are a lot of things there I don't want to do.' "
It's unclear how Tuesday's event may be remembered, and that's part of the drama. Wallace said he recently worked on a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate in which two independents ganged up on the Republican while the Democrat hovered above the fray.
"Debates take on a life of their own, and that's really the fun of it. It really isn't about us. It's about the candidates, and that's I think the bottom-line rule that you always keep in mind," he said.
Asked whether he prepares almost twice as many questions as he would be able to use given the 90-minute format, Wallace replied, "Let's put it this way. We'll be in no danger of being 83 minutes into the debate and saying 'We've got nothing more for you guys.' Don't worry about that."
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