The McCain campaign has insisted that the Thursday, October 2 debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees. With this format there will be much less occasion for impromptu direct exchanges between Palin and Biden.
McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.
The bickering and power struggle was chiefly between the McCain-Palin camp and the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates which is sponsoring the forums.
Commission members wanted a relaxed format that included time for follow-up questioning and challenges between the vice-presidential candidates. Last week, the Commission rejected a proposal from advisers to Palin and McCain for few if any free flowing or flexible interactions. Advisers to Biden say they were comfortable with either format.
A commission member said that the new agreement on the vice-presidential debate was reached late morning Saturday. It calls for shorter blocks of candidate statements and open discussion than at the presidential debates.
Both campaigns see the four debates as pivotal moments in a presidential race that is not only extraordinarily close but also drawing intense interest from voters; roughly 40 million viewers watched the major speeches at the two parties’ conventions.
While the debates between presidential nominees are traditionally the main events in the fall election season, the public interest in Palin has proved extraordinary, and a large audience is expected for her debate debut.
The negotiations for the three 90-minute debates between Obama and McCain were largely free of any power struggle. The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates which begin this Friday, September 26. Teams Obama and McCain agreed to one substantive change to the format originally proposed by the debate commission, giving them two minutes apiece to make a statement at the beginning of each segment on a new topic.
Schedule of debates:
Friday, September 26, 2008: Presidential debate with foreign policy focus, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
Thursday, October 2, 2008: Vice Presidential debate, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Tuesday, October 7, 2008: Presidential debate in a town hall format, Belmont University, Nashville, TN
Wednesday, October 15, 2008: Presidential debate with domestic policy focus, Hofstra University, Hempstead (L.I.), NY