The MOU between the two campaigns was released last night with regard to the rules of the debate. It’s an attempt to script the unknown and leave nothing to chance. There’s been a lot of hoopla about tonight with regards to the role of the moderator, or ‘moderator,’ Candy Crowley. They just want someone to play referee and not ask followup questions to the question posed by an audience member (in fact the rules go all O’Reilly with instructions to cut the microphone as soon as the question is asked, or if the audience member goes off script).
Thankfully Crowley has said she will ask follow up questions – you know, stuff a debate moderator should be doing. Seems like they got scared from the kick-ass job Raddatz did.
From a camera coverage point of view, here’s the most interesting stipulation:
“There will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question…”
Pretty much every broadcast has not followed this rule as the debates have been broadcasted split screen. But not all. For the first debate I watched it over Xbox (kudos to Xbox btw for streaming the debate live) and they did not do a split screen broadcast. I still got the impression that Romney did better, but Obama looking down and taking notes did not seem as big a deal to me because I hardly saw it. But that became one of the main talking points about that debate. Same can be said for Biden’s laughs and reactions to Ryan when answering questions.
Split screen has really shaped the perception of the debate. You’re not just on while answering the question. You’re always on.
Another interesting thing about tonight is the candidates have a designated area they’re not supposed to leave, and they don’t overlap. I suppose this is to prevent another wandering McCain (though maybe they also had their own zones and McCain just forgot).
Tonight I’ll probably watch the debate on CNN.com, but have the Xbox on in the background, to compare the coverage.