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Second Debate: Crowley's Moderating Right On Point

Jonathan Stoller-Schoff |
October 16, 2012 | 8:29 p.m. PDT


Candy Crowley moderated the Presidential Debate on Tuesday, October 16th. (Screenshot, CNN)
Candy Crowley moderated the Presidential Debate on Tuesday, October 16th. (Screenshot, CNN)

A recent controversy sparked questions as to whether Candy Crowley, the moderator of Tuesday night's presidential debate, would be too aggressive. Leading up to the debate, Crowley had indicated that she would snub the rules as agreed upon by both candidates. 

A current college student asked the first question in the town-hall styled debate: “How can you reassure me that I will be able to support myself after graduation?”

After the planned two-minute response from both candidates, Crowley immediately interjected. She asked, “What would you do for the long-term unemployed, who need a job now?” Before the debate continued to the next question, the trio also covered the auto industry, and President Obama’s response to Romney even included tax policy and shipping jobs overseas. 

Crowley then said she’d like to move on to something “sort of connected to cars.” Another member of the audience asked, “Do you agree that it’s not the job of the energy department to lower gas prices?” 

After Romney’s response, Crowley said she wanted to get back to the gist of the question - gas prices, not the umbrella of energy policies Romney and Obama were discussing - to ensure that both candidates responded accurately to the question at hand. As Romney’s response related to the latter rather than the former, this was sharp moderating on Crowley’s part. After Obama’s two-minute response, Romney and Obama engaged in direct conversation, and Crowley remained silent until the bickering was over, ending the question by slightly broadening the scope to energy policies.

In a somewhat blunt moment, responding to Romney’s insistence to continue speaking, Crowley not only followed the rules herself, but kept Romney in line, preventing a response from him by telling him “[In] the follow up, it doesn't quite work like that.” Laughter from the crowd ensued.

The next question was on women in the workplace. As a woman in the professional world, Crowley related directly to the question, but instead allowed the governor and president to answer the question. This was incredibly hands-off for the type of moderating expected of Crowley.

In arguably the best question of the night, a woman asked Governor Romney the biggest difference between the ex-Governor and ex-President George W. Bush. Even in the following responses, Crowley’s moderating was as laissez-faire as ever, and it followed similarly for the rest of the evening. Only at points in which moderating was absolutely necessary, in which both candidates continued to speak over themselves, did Crowley intervene

Crowley was especially stringent on time requirements, cutting off the two debaters when their limit had been reached, and at one point allowed Romney to go on to finish two answers in a row in order to even out the time given to each candidate. Despite the clear effort on Crowley’s part to regulate their times, Obama was slightly ahead of Romney for the majority of the debate.

Overall, Crowley’s moderating was slightly more specific than her contemporaries, and she was perhaps more blunt than Jim Lehrer (an improvement, to be sure). She asserted facts and asked sequitur following questions. She never strayed from the point of the town-hall debate: ordinary people being able to ask their own questions. 


Reach Contributor Jonathan Stoller-Schoff here.



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