Both campaigns have problems with debate moderator Candy Crowley
posted at 12:59 pm on October 15, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
There is not much that President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney agree on, but one common bond has emerged. Neither campaign is particularly thrilled at the prospect of CNN reporter Candy Crowley’s moderating their townhall-style debate on Tuesday.
TIME’s Mark Halperin explains:
While an early-October memorandum of understanding between the Obama and Romney campaigns suggests that CNN’s Candy Crowley would play a limited role in the Tuesday-night session, Crowley, who is not a party to that agreement, has done a series of interviews on her network in which she has suggested that she will assume a broader set of responsibilities. 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?”’
The two campaigns have independently contacted the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to voice concerns that Crowley’s taking a too-heavy hand in steering topics could skunk the debate.
In the format as envisioned by the CPD, questions—all from undecided voters—are to be decided on in advance. Each candidate gets two minutes to respond, after which another two-minute discussion period takes place. The CPD document outlining the format states:
In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.
Clearly Crowley’s insertion of “X, Y, Z” flies in the face of those expectations.
As for debate preparations, Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki is pushing back at the notion that the president was unprepared for the first debate because he failed to cram seriously. If true, this should be encouraging to the Romney camp, which can hope that Obama—who is threatening to be “more aggressive”—does the same level of prep and turns in the same lackluster performance.
Another claim that Team Obama is walking back is that the president immediately after the first debate in Denver believed he had won. “Obviously, the president was disappointed in his own performance,” campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “He didn’t meet his expectations. He knew when he walked off that stage … that he’s got to be more energetic.”
For its part, the Romney camp has its work cut out for it. Scott Conway of Real Clear Politics notes that the debate format will be new to candidate Romney. An unnamed senior Romney aide is quoted as saying:
He’s done his share of town halls, but a town hall when you’re debating is different than a town hall that’s yours. It’s a town hall where you have only two minutes to answer a question versus a town hall where you can have an honest conversation with somebody about an issue. It’s just different. All of these town halls he’s done [so far] aren’t really typical.
But the GOP nominee has prepared for the debate in part by making impromptu stops at fast-food restaurants and other small venues, which offer face-to-face, unscripted encounters with average Americans.
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