Format set for vice presidential debate at Centre College

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 25, 2012 

When the two candidates for vice president meet at Centre College in Danville this fall, they will address foreign and domestic topics divided into nine time segments of 10 minutes each, according to the format released Wednesday by the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

In addition, the commission will encourage citizens to share their input on issues with the moderator in advance of the debate. More details about that "innovative Internet voter education program" will be released later this month, the commission said in a release.

The Oct. 11 debate will be held at the Norton Center for the Arts on Centre's campus, the same site as the 2000 vice presidential debate between former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and (now Independent) Sen. Joe Lieberman. The Republicans won that year and Cheney became vice president.

The person who will sit across from Vice President Joe Biden in the 2012 Danville debate is not known because Republican Mitt Romney has not announced his No. 2 pick for the ticket.

The format for the Danville debate will be similar to the first and third presidential debates scheduled for Oct. 3 at the University of Denver and Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

The Oct. 3 debate will focus on domestic policy and the Oct. 22 debate will focus on foreign policy, the commission said.

In each, as in the Danville debate, the moderator will open each segment with a question and then each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for discussion of the topic.

The second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., will have a "town meeting" format, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates will have two minutes for rebuttal, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate discussion. The town meeting participants will be "undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization," the commission said in its release.

All the debates will be moderated by a single individual and will air from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. There will be no opening statements and two-minute closings in all the debates.

The commission recommends that, except for the town meeting, the candidates be seated at a table with the moderator — as the 2000 Danville debate was done with moderator Bernard Shaw, now a retired CNN anchor.

Moderators for the 2012 debates will be selected and announced in August, the commission said. The topics will be selected and announced in advance of the debates by the moderators.

The commission has sponsored and produced all the presidential and vice presidential debates since 1987.

The last Danville vice presidential debate drew a television audience of 28.5 million viewers, a little more than the 26.6 million who tuned in for the 1996 debate between Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp.

But the vice presidential debates since 2000 have drawn even bigger audiences. The 2004 debate between Vice President Cheney and Sen. John Edwards attracted 43.5 million viewers, and the 2008 debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had 69.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305.Twitter: @heraldleader

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