Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner discusses the likelihood of another round of presidential debate chaos.

Republicans have taken some pride in the fact that the 2016 presidential field is diverse and deep, but as they look toward primary season, one issue looms large: How the heck is the party going to hold debates with 16 potential candidates?

“It’s a work in progress,” said James Hewitt, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, about the challenge of staging debates with such a large crop of contenders.

Just take the basic logistical challenge — in a typical 90 minute to two hour debate, there are commercials and the moderators have to spend time asking questions, so the actual time allotted to candidates is less than that. As an example, during a New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate held in 2011, total candidate speaking time was 72 minutes and 49 seconds. Divide that equally among 16 candidates, and all that’s left is about four and and a half minutes per person — enough for maybe three short answers each.

The Republican National Committee has taken great pains to limit the number of debates in 2016 and make them less of a sideshow, out of the sentiment that in 2012 Mitt Romney was badly damaged by having to partake in so many debates in the protracted nomination process (an argument that I’ve previously taken issue with). This time, the RNC has sanctioned nine debates — the first of which will be a Fox News debate on Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

But the problem is, if all of the candidates who have expressed interest decide to run, there’s no easy criteria for determining who can be allowed to debate. For instance, a strict polling threshold, applied to a recent New Hampshire survey, would end up including Donald Trump while leaving out Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry.

Restricting the debates to office holders would exclude Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, the only African-American and female candidates in the race, at a time when the party is trying to shed its image of being limited to white males.