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CBS News anchor Katie Couric loses North Carolina debate

April 21, 2008 |  2:35 pm

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Katie Couric just can’t get a break.

The CBS News anchor was looking forward to moderating a Democratic presidential candidate debate in North Carolina on Sunday, an event network executives hoped would spotlight something other than a recent spate of stories suggesting Couric may leave her post in the coming year.

But without a commitment from Sen. Barack Obama that he would participate, the North Carolina Democratic Party canceled the tentatively scheduled forum today because of “time constraints and logistical issues associated with such a large, national event,” according to a statement on the party’s website.

The party had gotten requests from 20,000 people for tickets, but it suggested that there’s a diminishing appetite among the Democratic rank-and-file for another showdown between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“You have shown tremendous passion and interest in being a part of history as Democrats are poised this year to elect the first female or African-American President,” the party’s statement read. “However, there were also growing concerns about what another debate would do to party unity.”

Paul Friedman, CBS News’ senior vice president, said Couric and the rest of the news division were disappointed the forum was called off.

“It would have been good for us in the sense that it would have shown Katie’s skills,” he said. “She’s a very good interviewer and passionate about politics. So it would have been good for her. On the other hand, she’s done a lot of great work for which she hasn’t gotten any credit or recognition.”

It’s unlikely Couric or her rival evening news anchors will be tapped to host the general election debates in the fall. In the last several elections, the Commission on Presidential Debates has instead relied mostly on PBS anchors to fulfill those duties. (ABC’s Charles Gibson and CBS’ Bob Schieffer each moderated a general election debate in 2004, but neither was anchoring the evening news at the time.)

Still, Friedman said he believes CBS may have an opportunity to host some sort of election forum before this summer’s conventions.

The North Carolina debate would have been the 22nd match-up between the two Democratic contenders, and it remains to be seen whether Obama will agree to another forum after Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary. His performance in the last forum, hosted by ABC on April 16, was widely regarded as his weakest yet.

Nevertheless, both NBC and CNN are aggressively pushing proposals to host debates in Indiana, which holds its Democratic primary May 6.

-- Matea Gold

Photo: John Paul Filo, courtesy CBS

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