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How should the moderator of the next debate approach her role?
Submitted by Jesse Towsen on 15 October 2012
Who should ask the presidential candidates questions, everyday citizens or journalists? Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz took very different strategies in moderating the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate, respectively. Lehrer took a hands-off approach, asking the candidates to define their differences, and then giving them space to go back and forth. Raddatz, on the other hand, asked leading questions, and then pushed the candidates to supply direct, specific answers.
The second presidential debate, however, is different. In a town hall format, citizens attending the debate -- selected by the Gallup polling company, will ask questions directly to the candidates (you can read more about the format and rules of the debate in our debate watch kit). The debate's moderator, Candy Crowley, has said that she has space to add to the questions, to push the candidates to go in a specific direction, but Time Magazine's Mark Halperin reports that the two campaigns have joined together to express their concern over this larger role for the moderator. From Halperin's article:
As Crowley put it last week, “Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?’”
In the view of both campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the two campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the moderator of the town-hall debate. The questioning of the two candidates is supposed to be driven by the audience members themselves — likely voters selected by the Gallup Organization. Crowley’s assignment differs from those of the three other debate moderators, who in the more standard format are supposed to lead the questioning and follow up when appropriate.
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