Presidential Debates: what type of moderator matters most?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Ami Wazlawik 8 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #171052

    David B. Grinberg

    There’s been a lot of buzz lately about which style works best for moderating Presidential debates.

    AP: “Forceful Raddatz draws praise…”


    1) Who did a better job as moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS or Martha Raddatz of ABC?

    2) Which moderating style is most effective: hands-off, forceful, or something else?

    3) If you’re replying after Tuesday night’s debate, how did CNN’s Candy Crowley perform compared to Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz?

  • #171070

    Ami Wazlawik

    Raddatz was hands down better than Lehrer, though I don’t think it was entirely his fault. The candidates involved and other features of the debates made things more difficult for Lehrer, but I still think he could have done better. I think somewhere between forceful and hands-off is the best – probably leaning a little more toward forceful. I’m interested to see how well Crowley does tonight.

  • #171068

    David B. Grinberg

    Here’s a novel idea for moderators to better control presidential debates: cut off the candidate’s microphone, after a warning, if the allotted time is exceeded.

    This may be the only way to maintain order and keep the debaters in check – especially when they act less like Presidential candidates and more like unmonitored school kids talking trash in the playground.

    According to a front page article in today’s Washington Post: “Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN faced a difficult task all night in trying to keep to the intended format as both candidates insisted on answering nearly every charge from his opponent, regardless of time limits.”

    One would expect presidential candidates to simply act professionally and abide by the rules, particularly at this level and in front of so many viewers. Yet too often, the conversation devolves into something like this: “That’s false…no it’s not…yes it is, check the facts…no, you’re mistaken…no, you are…etc.”

    A conspicuous timer counts down the minutes allotted for each statement or response and then turns red when a candidate’s time expires. However, if the candidate continues to ramble on, the moderator is left to jump in like referee at a boxing match who must forcefully separate the fighters from holding on to one another. Unfortunately, even an aggressive moderator can not always stop the debaters from speaking – or shouting — in the middle of a heated exchange.

    This leaves the moderator with no option but to shout over the candidates – who are already shouting over one another — in a desperate attempt to restore and maintain order. Meanwhile, viewers are left frustrated.

    While the performance of some moderators is arguably better than others, there still needs to be a socalled “failsafe” mechanism for the moderator to use at her/his discretion when the debaters decide to ignore civility and/or knowingly trash the rules.

    Killing a candidate’s mic may appear drastic, but no more so than is necessary to maintain a professional format that benefits everyone.

  • #171066

    David B. Grinberg


  • #171064

    Ami Wazlawik

    I too have been unimpressed by the candidates’ ability to talk/shout over the moderator. I think killing the mic is a good suggestion.

  • #171062

    David B. Grinberg

    Thanks very much for your feedback, Ami. I’m glad that at least someone at GovLoop is paying attention to this important non-political discussion about debate moderators. Hopefully, more folks will chime in on this topic.

    By the way, Ami, how do you think Candy Crowley did last nigh as moderator? What grade would you give her?

    Thanks again.


  • #171060

    Ami Wazlawik

    I didn’t see the entire debate, but she seemed to do well in the portions that I did catch. She was where she needed to be in terms of forceful vs. hands-off, though I found the fact checking a bit odd. It’s a tough job, particularly when you’re dealing with candidates who aren’t very respectful.

  • #171058

    Jeff S

    The moderators all seem to have an agenda and side with one candidate or the other. They project themselves into the debates especially when their guy is losing. The townhall style last night was excellent but even then the questions were preselected. Town hall should be real questions from real people and once answered the person who asked should be able to say “So you don’t have an answer” since they rarely get a straight answer.

  • #171056

    David B. Grinberg

    Who is the real “snake oil” salesman pictured above?

  • #171054

    David B. Grinberg

    Great points, Jeff. The problem with political events in general, particularly at the national level, is that they are all scripted to some degree — if not totally. In my opinion, this detracts from the kind of pure democracy a town hall setting is supposed to offer and bring out.

    Did the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates require a debate commission to hash out every last detail with agreement by both candidates? I think not.

    What we need are more open and honest debates, and less superficial rhetoric based on talking points to score political points.

    Also, rather than having the moderator be a national network or cable TV news personality, how about just having independent men and women who are undecided voters ask the questions and engage the candidates?

    We need to get back to basics here.

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