The moderators for the upcoming presidential debates have been announced, and that’s adding a whole new level to the partisan arguing leading up to the November elections.
The presidential debates will be moderated by Lester Holt (NBC), Anderson Cooper (CNN), Martha Raddatz (ABC), and Chris Wallace (FOX). The VP debate moderator is slated to be Elaine Quijano (CBS).
The first debate, which will be held at Hofstra University on September 26, will belong to Holt, who anchors a news desk for NBC Nightly News. The second debate, co-anchored by Cooper and Raddatz, will be more of a town hall format, hosted at Washington University in St. Louis on October 9. Wallace will helm the final debate, held on October 19 in Las Vegas. The VP debate is slated for Longwood University in Farmville, VA on October 4.
Debate commission co-chairs Frank Fahrenkopf and Michael McCurry released a statement saying: “These journalists bring extensive experience to the job of moderating, and understand the importance of using expanded time periods effectively…We are grateful for their willingness to moderate and confident that the public will learn more about the candidates and the issues as a result…”
All the logistics aside, the debate about the debates is not about the format or the location, but about the role of the media in election campaigns. Clinton has made a point of not attending or allowing press conferences. It’s a chink in the DEM candidates armor that pundits never tire of attacking. While this doesn’t seem to phase party faithful or Clinton’s base, it’s a definite turn-off for independent and undecided voters who want a candidate who connects with them. Refusing to talk to the media makes it look like Clinton is hiding something.
Meanwhile, Trump has made attacking and critiquing the media a cornerstone of his campaign. He’s kicked some out of his rallies and routinely excoriates them on the stump, both in general and specifically. Get in a Twitter spat with Trump and you can bet he will revile you as “dishonest media” at a rally or in an interview on another network. The media, of course, has reacted to this treatment by treating Trump the way Dracula treats ropes of garlic.
Meanwhile, the perception among Trump supporters is that the media is in the bag for Hillary and Trump is getting short shrift. Clinton supporters believe Trump is getting a ton of free press, and that the criticisms leveled against him are justified. These narratives are amplified as the debate moderators, once simply viewed as event MCs are now being pulled into the conversation.