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Jim Lehrer, Tom Brokaw, Bob Schieffer named to honcho this year's presidential debates

August 5, 2008 | 12:27 pm

Remember last year, when sponsors of the numerous debates featuring the then-crowded presidential fields in both major parties looked for innovative ways to enliven and redefine the forums? The most obvious examples were the YouTube/CNN debates, with questions from an assortment of regular folks (and, in some cases, eccentrics) that occasionally caught the candidates off-guard or left them nonplussed.

Well, that was then and this is now, as underscored by the announcement today from the Commission on Presidential Debates of the moderators for this fall's faceoffs. Top-notch professionals all, but none likely to push the envelope of the tried-and-true format.

Here's the lineup:

Friday, Sept. 26
The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Miss.
Jim Lehrer (PBS)

Vice presidential debate
Thursday, Oct. 2
Washington University, St. Louis
Gwen Ifill (PBS)

Second presidential debate (town meeting)
Tuesday, Oct. 7
Belmont University, Nashville
Tom Brokaw (NBC)

Third presidential debate
Wednesday, Oct. 15
Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
Bob Schieffer (CBS)

Also of note is the scheduling of the opening debate. Traditionally, it's the most-watched, with viewership declining -- sometimes substantially -- for the ones that follow. But with much of America occupied by high school football games on autumnal Friday nights -- or tempted by other diversions at the start of the weekend -- the much-ballyhooed excitement about this year's campaign may not be reflected in the ratings for the first forum.

The initial debate in 2004 between President Bush and John Kerry -- hosted by Lehrer -- aired on a Thursday night.

-- Don Frederick

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