Vice President Mike Pence was the clear winner of Wednesday night's vice presidential debate, the only one to be held this election cycle. Pence had a much greater command of the facts than did Democrat challenger Kamala Harris and was more adept at working the format than was Harris. That said, the debate was unlikely to change the minds of many voters.

The debate did allow Pence, a much more disciplined debater than President Donald J. Trump, an opportunity to set the record straight on a number of matters while punching holes in Joe Biden's platform. Specifically, Pence proved Biden has flip-flopped on a number of issues such as raising taxes and energy policy. He also exposed Harris as being not quite ready for prime time.

What most troubled me about the debate was yet another moderator who was not quite up to the challenge. USA Today's Susan Page was no more able to control the candidates than was Chris Wallace in the first presidential debate. Page asked ridiculously dumb questions at times that both candidates willfully ignored. Page's questions were often statements disguised as questions, and she never followed up as her questions went unanswered.

We need a better format for future debates. Dumb questions that go unanswered from moderators who live by a stopwatch yield little new information. The candidates want to debate each other and not answer a bunch of silly queries from a "gotcha" journalist. Let them have at it. Let the candidates decide the topics and give them free rein to debate each other.

The moderator should be used only to keep things neat and tidy by making sure the candidates each get roughly the same amount of speaking time. If things get out of control, the moderator steps in to separate the candidates, just as a ref does in a heavyweight prizefight.

The American people are being denied an opportunity to learn much about the issues that cannot fit neatly in a 30-second sound bite. Its time to ditch the modern debate format and let the candidates truly debate.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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