The history of the town hall debate
Smithsonian Magazine - 10/06/2016
As Northeastern University journalism professor Alan Schroeder points out in his book on the perils of the presidential campaign trail, the Bush team believed that since the debate was being held in conservative Richmond, Virginia, undecided voters would be impressed enough by a chance to speak to the president that they wouldn’t ask him hard questions. Bush himself had fared well in small groups in the past, even hosting a successful “Ask George Bush” forum during his own campaign, which was analogous to Clinton’s own forums. The new Commission on Presidential Debates put the forum in motion and the town hall format for presidential debates was born.