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Rules For Second Presidential Debate

Joseph Krassenstein |
October 16, 2012 | 5:14 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

President Obama and Mitt Romney will meet again Tuesday night (Creative Commons).
President Obama and Mitt Romney will meet again Tuesday night (Creative Commons).
Tuesday night's debate is in a town hall style format where Gallup-selected undecided voters will get a chance to ask the two presidential candidates questions that concern them. 

This different style requires the addition of new rules and can also have possible dilemmas that both candidates could face. 

Some of the rules that will be in place for tonight’s debate are as follows

  • "The candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates."
  • "The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges."
  • “The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate...."
  • "The audience members shall not ask follow-up questions or otherwise participate in the extended discussion, and the audience member's microphone shall be turned off after he or she completes asking the questions."
  • "The Commission shall take appropriate steps to cut off the microphone of any...audience member who attempts to pose any question or statement different than that previously posed to the moderator for review."
  • "No candidate may reference or cite any specific individual sitting in a debate audience (other than family members) at any time during a debate."
  • For the town hall debate: "Each candidate may move about in a pre-designated area, as proposed by the Commission and approved by each campaign, and may not leave that area while the debate is underway.

An additional technical rule now in place is that television coverage will no longer be showing reaction shots of the candidate who is not speaking.

In previous debates, the coverage showed a split-screen view showing both candidates. As seen in the last vice presidential debate, this proved almost rude as Vice President Joe Biden laughed and ridiculed Rep. Paul Ryan. 

The official rule regarding this statement is, "To the best of the Commission's abilities, there will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question or to a candidate who is not giving a closing statement while another candidate is doing so."

Both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney face dilemmas in this debate that could affect their performance. 

Obama has said he’ll approach this debate more aggressively, hoping to make up for the last encounter where many criticized the president’s performance as lackluster and defensive. However, getting too personal and bitter could backfire. 

Both candidates also need to keep their composure as tempers are high and the pressure is on, as both candidates have negative points to make against each other. How each candidate maintains himself will be another key to success. 

Both candidates hope to be concise and to-the-point in this debate as the time limits and elaborations will be strongly monitored. Therefore, rambling will be viewed negatively as the town hall-style provides both candidates the chance to personally appeal to the audience and show empathy.

A final point that could make or break the candidates' performance is staying after the debate to answer questions and pose for photos. In 2008, John McCain was criticized for leaving right after the debate ended, while Obama stayed for photos and questions. Although a small point, it could have a big impact on post-debate coverage. 


For the official set of rules for tonight's debate click here.

Reach Staff Reporter Joseph Krassenstein here.



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