Three Presidential Debates and One Vice Presidential Debate Are Set for 2012

 Bookmark and Share  The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), has today announced the schedule, formats, and locations of the public debates that will pit the presidential and vice presidential candidates against one another in the 2012 election.

According to CPD co-chairmen Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry, there will be three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate and each will last 90 minutes and begin at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.   They will be moderated by a single individual and while each debate will not allow opening statements by the candidates, they will feature two-minute closing statements.

The schedule is as follows:

The first presidential debate will focus on domestic policy and be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.

The first and only Vice Presidential debate which will take place in Danville, Kentucky’s Center University will discuss both foreign and domestic topics and be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the question.

The second presidential debate will differ from the other two by featuring a town hall format that will have questions on both foreign and domestic policy, asked by undecided voters who are selected by the Gallup Organization.  In this forum, the presidential candidates will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion.

The final presidential debate will be dedicated to foreign policy and it’s format will be identical to that of the first debate.

As for additional details, the CPD has recommended that the candidates be seated at a table with the moderator in each of the debate except for the town hall style forum at Hofstra University.  As for the all important question of who the moderators will be, the CPD states that those individuals “will be selected and announced in August.”

While politics has become more of a forum for soundbites than substance, these debates may provide voters with the opportunity to get at least a better understanding of the candidates that attend them.  While each presidential and vice presidential nominee will undoubtedly respond to questions with well tested phrases or points that are chock filled with well rehearsed statistics and jargon, these debates will most likely be more important for the opinions that voters establish based upon the rare, unscripted moments that these debates often offer.

Who can forget when in 1992, President George H.W. Bush looked at as his wrist watch and left the viewing audience with the impression that he was uninterested in the process.  In a campaign where his Democrat opponent was doing his best to paint Bush as out of touch, Bush’s little look at at his watch seemed to simply confirm the point.

Or how about the 1976 debate gaffe of incumbent President Gerald Ford who during a debate with Jimmy Carter, claimed “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Taken back by the obviously false statement, he moderator, Max Frankel of the New York Times, incredulously responded , “I’m sorry, what? … Did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it’s a communist zone?”  The answer to that question should have been “No, I meant to suggest that the people of Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia may physically endure the heavy hand of Soviet intrusiveness, the Soviets have not won the hearts and minds of those people, freedom loving people who seek to themselves of Soviet interference. However; Ford refused to back down from his original statement, and insisted  that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia were free from Soviet interference.

The results in that election were so close, that many have logically concluded that Ford’s debate gaffe about Soviet domination probably cost him the win.

In 2012, these debates could make or break the election for one candidate or the other, especially since the extreme political polarization that exists in most states will allow a handful of voters in approximately 6 states to probably determine who will win.  That means that the wrong move or the slightest slip of the tongue in these debates could easily change the course of history.

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