Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

John McCain and Barack Obama agree to debate schedule, format

August 21, 2008 |  7:34 am

The John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns just announced they have agreed to a series of debates -- one of them a "town hall" -- already scheduled through the Commission on Presidential Debates. The news here seems to be that the two campaigns agreed to what the commission already has planned.

The agreement calls for three 90-minute presidential showdowns and one vice presidential (players to be named later) debate. The full list with details is below (all begin at 6 p.m. Pacific time). But what's most interesting to note is where the debates will be held -- none in the West.

In fact, only one, at Washington University in St. Louis, will be west of the Mississippi -- and that just barely. So much for the fight for the heart and soul of the Western voter. And expect the announcement to spur some complaints from fringe candidates Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney, who must get 15% or better in national polls to wrangle an invite under rules established by the commission -- which, incidentally, was set up in 1987 by the Democratic and Republican parties.

The list and details from the release are:

First Presidential Debate:
Date:  September 26
Site:  University of Mississippi (Oxford)
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
Date:  October 2nd
Site:  Washington University (St. Louis)
Moderator:  Gwen Ifill
Staging/Answer Format:  To be resolved after both parties’ Vice Presidential nominees are selected.

Second Presidential Debate
Date:  October 7
Site:  Belmont University (Nashville)
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
Date:  October 15
Site:  Hofstra University (Hempstead, Long Island, New York)
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.

-- Scott Martelle