Yesterday, the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain announced that they have agreed to a series of three presidential debates this fall. The debates–held once again by the private Commission on Presidential Debates–will be highly scripted events in which every detail has been pre-determined by the Democratic and Republican campaigns.
As has been the case in previous years, the two major party candidates have come to an agreement on the participation of third parties. In all likelihood, third party candidates–such as Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and independent Ralph Nader–will be excluded from the debates. While the debates are theoretically “open” to their participation, they must meet an impossible threshold for third party candidates–polling at an average of15% in five national opinion polls. Third parties are similarly excluded from the discussions that set the terms of the debates.
The debates agreed to by the two campaigns:
First Presidential Debate — September 26 at the University of Mississippi
Topic: Foreign Policy & National Security
Moderator: Jim Lehrer
Staging: Podium debate
Answer Format: The debate will be broken into nine, 9-minute segments. The moderator will introduce a topic and allow each candidate 2 minutes to comment. After these initial answers, the moderator will facilitate an open discussion of the topic for the remaining 5 minutes, ensuring that both candidates receive an equal amount of time to comment
Vice Presidential Debate — October 2 at Washington University (St. Louis)
Moderator: Gwen Ifill
Staging/Answer Format: To be resolved after both parties’ Vice Presidential nominees are selected.
Second Presidential Debate — October 7 at Belmont University
Moderator: Tom Brokaw
Staging: Town Hall debate
Format: The moderator will call on members of the audience (and draw questions from the internet). Each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond to each question. Following those initial answers, the moderator will invite the candidates to respond to the previous answers, for a total of 1 minute, ensuring that both candidates receive an equal amount of time to comment. In the spirit of the Town Hall, all questions will come from the audience (or internet), and not the moderator.
Third Presidential Debate — October 15 at Hofstra University
Topic: Domestic and Economic policy
Moderator: Bob Schieffer
Staging: Candidates will be seated at a table
Answer Format: Same as First Presidential Debate
Closing Statements: At the end of this debate (only) each candidate shall have the opportunity for a 90 second closing statement.
For more on the history of how the debates are decided, we urge you to read an earlier article on Mediamouse.org from November of 2007 that covers the Commission on Presidential Debates.