3rd Democratic Presidential Debate – Speed Dating or Showdown?

What Exactly is a Presidential Debate Rules Analyst?
September 3, 2019
Round 3 – Democratic National Debate….was NOT (really) a Debate!
September 13, 2019

It’s the third round of Democratic Presidential Debates – with only NINE more to go before the Democratic National Convention (“nine” is not a typo).

Yes, the field has narrowed from 20 to 10 – but that doesn’t make a whole lotta difference on the debate stage.  It’s still TEN people on one stage – just like last time.  But hey, the DNC stretched the length of the debate to THREE hours (1st round was 2 hrs; 2nd round was 2.5 hrs) and is allowing the candidates to talk a tad bit longer (75 seconds for direct responses to questions and 45 seconds for rebuttals and responses vs. 60 seconds and 30 seconds respectively). In addition, there will be four moderators rather than three!

Will these changes make a difference?  I think not.  Sure, the candidates will get 30 more seconds to dazzle us with their brilliance in a crowded field.  Yet, to the viewers, it will still feel like speed dating.  Who can spend more on climate change?  Who has a better plan to fix healthcare?  Who can be more appealing?

The tenor and tone of the debate won’t change much, although Election Central acknowledges that “CNN moderators took some criticism in July for the way they cut off candidates in mid-sentence and generally treated the event as more of a “soundbite” contest since candidates had such little time to answer.  ABC will be looking to provide a better balance but still give the large debate stage time to speak.”

So the conversation might be a bit more civil, but “there was no explicit word on whether candidates would be buzzed for time or have their future time curtailed if they choose to interrupt or go outside of their allotted time as was the case on CNN.”  Which means that candidates will talk over their time limits and interrupt each other.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some kind of showdown between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  It’s bound to happen – especially since the media seems to be craving a conflict.

And that’s why the moderators are so darn critical to this debate:

  • Will they be fair and balanced in doling out the questions and allowing candidates to respond OR will they gravitate to the center of the stage to the top polling candidates as they have typically done?
  • Will they be objective and neutral, staying calm and focused and posing meaningful neutral questions and insightful follow up questions (rather than asking blatantly biased questions or pitting candidate against candidate)?
  • Will they be skilled at following the format and ground rules, managing the airtime and intervening appropriately? (unlike Rachel Maddow who allowed Kamala Harris to figuratively drive a bus into a showdown with Biden).

Of the four moderators (ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos), only David Muir has presidential debate experience (both a 2016 Republican and Democratic primary debate).

I’m typically not so worried about news anchors who report the news as they how to conduct themselves in a presidential debate setting.  I am, however, a little worried about Jorge Ramos.  While USA Today refers to him as “one of the most trusted names in the news,” he is also passionate about immigration issues and has a bit of an edgy side to him – a “fire-starter journalistic style.”

Cheryl Chumley of the Washington Times takes it even a step further: “If town halls and political debates are supposed to provide the audience with the opportunity to learn matters of importance about their looming and wanna-be leaders, then ABC has dropped the ball on that. Ramos is already outed, well outed, as one of the media world’s most noted, most unabashedly, most unashamedly Trump haters. All he brings to the debate table is a line of sneaky questioning… give[ing] the Democrats the chance to argue instead that Trump is indeed an evil racist who indeed should be impeached.”

Jorge Ramos just might create the spark to ignite a fire.

We won’t know until Thursday.  I’ll be reporting on the debate and am available to comment live , Zoom, or pre-recorded interviews.  Just give me a call at 480.399.8489 or set up a time to talk here.

 

For more information, check out my website at www.RulesAnalyst.com

Related Articles:

12 Moderator Mishaps that Derail a Presidential Debate

A Feeding Frenzy: The Second Night of the First Democratic Primary Debate

First Democratic Presidential Primary: The Beto & Booker Show!

Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold
Award-winning author Kristin Arnold is an expert panel moderator and professional meeting facilitator.
Store

Our privacy policy has been updated. By clicking, 'I agree,' you consent to the terms therein. I Agree