Obama, Romney set to tangle Tuesday night in second of three debates
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama found common purpose in advance of Tuesday night's presidential debate, complaining that journalist moderator Candy Crowley wasn't agreeing to stick to the script. But Crowley, a Midwesterner, says she's going ahead with the debate how she wants — and the two sides now insist they're ready.
President Barack Obama and his opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, meet in their second of three debates Tuesday night — in a townhall moderated by CNN anchor Candy Crowley.
But Obama and Romney put aside their disagreements for a few minutes earlier this week, in order to object to Crowley actually, well, moderating the debate.
The two sides, in agreeing to three debates, outlined in great detail the circumstances in which the debates would be held. As part of the agreement, the two sides and the Commission on Presidential Debates agreed the questions for the second debate would come from audience members, with little if any intervention from the debate moderator.
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 two-minute response period,” the agreement says.
Crowley, for her part, was never part of that agreement. And in comments leading up to the debate, she outlined a view on her role that seemed more expansive than what the campaigns had in mind.
"Once the table is kind of set by the town hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, hey, wait a second, what about X, Y and Z?” Crowley said on CNN earlier this month. “They launch the discussion and then the moderator furthers the discussions.”
Time's Mark Halperin was the first to report that the campaigns were unsettled by those comments — going so far as to press the debate commission to fix the matter.
"In the view of the two campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the debate moderator," he reported. "The two campaign counsels, Bob Bauer for President Obama and Ben Ginsberg of the Romney campaign, jointly reached out to the commission to express concern that the moderator’s comments seemed to be in direct conflict with the terms of their agreement."
Crowley, speaking a few weeks ago, takes a somewhat sanguine outlook on the debates. She's the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in 20 years.
In the days since the controversy was first broached, however, the two campaigns have backed off — afraid of looking weak in the eyes of the voters. And that's just fine with Crowley, who says she has a family as diverse politically as you can imagine.
"My family is a bunch of hunters. We grew up in the Midwest," she said. "I don't look at a gun and think evil things will be done with this gun. But, by the way, I'm a vegetarian."
The debate starts at 9 ET, 8 CT, and will be carried on all of the major broadcast TV networks and cable news channels.
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