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Obama & Romney camps’ pre-emptive debate complaints

CNN correspondent Candy Crowley.
CNN correspondent Candy Crowley.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO

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With just three weeks until Election Day, there is little the Obama and Romney campaigns can agree on. But united they stand on the role of CNN’s Candy Crowley when she moderates tomorrow night’s town hall debate.

Time magazine reports that both campaigns have complained to the Commission on Presidential Debates about comments Crowley made regarding her role as the moderator. She said on CNN last week, “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?”

However, an agreement formed on October 3 between lawyers for both campaigns stated the moderator would “not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions…or the answers…or otherwise intervene [other than enforcing time limits and prompting the candidates to respond].”

It’s important to note that Crowley was not included in forming this agreement nor signing it. So is she beholden to it? How worried are the campaigns really? This morning NPR’s David Folkenflik called it “preplaining” (preemptively complaining) and suggested that perceived bias can help spin the debate reviews.

How narrowly defined can, and should, the moderator’s role be? Is “preplaining” aimed at keeping Crowley in line? Why wasn’t the moderator included in forming the agreement, if s/he is expected to honor it?


David Folkenflik, Media Correspondent, National Public Radio (NPR)