The Significance of Candy Crowley in the Second Presidential Debate
CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will make history tonight as the moderator for the second Presidential Debate at Hofstra University. Crowley will be the first woman to moderate a Presidential debate since 1992. The selection of Crowley as a debate moderator is the result of a Change.org petition–started last year by New Jersey high school students Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel, and Elena Tsemberis—that urged the Commission on Presidential Debates to select a woman to moderate the debates.
The Second Presidential Debate will be in a town-hall format, which means that Crowley herself will not be posing questions to the candidates. The debate will be open to questions about foreign or domestic policy. The questions will be coming from members of the chosen debate audience, and within this format Crowley will simply be holding the microphone and enforcing time limits on the candidates responses. The debate contract that was agreed upon between the Obama and Romney campaigns explicitly forbids the moderator of tonight’s debate to ask follow-up questions:
7. Additional Rules Applicable to the October 16 Debate…
(c) With respect to all questions…
(iv) The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the 2 minute response period.
In an interview with CNN this afternoon, Crowley assured viewers that she would be doing more than simply refereeing in tonight’s debate. Crowley stated that she will ask follow-up questions contrary to what is stated in the debate contract:
They will call on ‘Alice,’ and ‘Alice’ will stand up and ask a question. Both candidates will answer, then there’s time for a follow-up question, facilitating a discussion, whatever you want to call it. So, if Alice asks ‘oranges,’ and someone answers ‘apples,’ there’s the time to go, ‘But Alice asked oranges. What’s the answer to that?’ Or, ‘Well, you say this, but what about that?’
The gender equality (two men, two women) of this year’s debate moderators has already yielded positive results. After the flop that was Jim Lehrer during the First Presidential Debate, Martha Raddatz set a high bar for moderation by being stern about time limits and finally addressing the issue of women’s health during the Vice-Presidential debate. Candy Crowley has been strong and assertive about her role in the debates before they have even begun. If she moderates well tonight, her impact will likely reach beyond this election. Perhaps it will bring the Commission on Presidential Debates into this century and encourage them to select more female moderators in the future.
Written by Brenna McCaffrey