John Dickerson points out the pitfalls of townhall debates:

In town-hall debates, the questions from the crowd can easily be turned into "moments" that journalists cling to for weeks. We're always looking for vignettes that allow us to tell a larger story. A "moment" by a swing voter is particularly valuable. The questioner, after all, is representative of a worried nation...It's not just the journalists who obsess, though. Voters see themselves in other votersparticularly those defined by television anchors as independent-mindedand tend to repeat these moments to their friends.

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