August 21st, 2008
09:54 AM ET
10 years ago

Campaigns reach final agreement on presidential debates

(CNN) - The McCain and Obama campaigns said Thursday that they have nailed down the details for this fall’s three 90-minute presidential debates.

As announced two weeks ago, Jim Lehrer of PBS’s The NewsHour will moderate the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain September 26 at the University of Mississippi. The faceoff will focus on foreign policy and national security issues.

Thursday’s announcement laid out the debate format: each candidate will get two minutes to respond to a question, followed by an open discussion for another five minutes.

The second debate, moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw, will be held October 7 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The format will be town-hall style; all questions will come from members of the audience or queries sent in over the Internet.

The Presidential Debate Commission said earlier this month that Gallup will choose undecided voters from in or around the Nashville, Tennessee area to participate in the town hall, and Brokaw will review each question before it is posed to avoid duplication.

The final presidential debate – which will cover domestic and economic policy issues - will take place October 15 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer will moderate.

The Hofstra faceoff will be the only debate where each candidate will have the chance to make a 90-second closing statement.

Details of the vice presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, which will be hosted by NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, will be released after both candidates name their running mates.

soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. McCain 08

    After Saddleback, I cannot wait to the debates. Obama must be scared to death to have to face McCain 3 times.
    I know understand why Obama decided to not go around the United States doing town hall meetings with John McCain.
    Obama is smart enough to know that abortion is not the only thing "above his pay grade".

    August 21, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. No Obama in 08

    Obama doesn't have a chance in a real debate without a teleprompter. I will look forward to watching it. It will be great. McCain will seperate himself big time in these debates. McCain will show what a great leader should look and sound like.

    Obama on the other hand will be his usual

    August 21, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. Steve the Soothsayer

    Let the games begin and may the best man win. Both candidates had ample opportunity to demonstrate their debating skills during the primaries. Both displayed certain strengths and weaknesses, but it was quite clear that neither of them was overpowering. Obama has to stop heming and hawing and McCain has to stop giggling after telling his own one-liners. It's difficult to predict the winner of a debate. Many people are still unable to reconcile the fact that the ultimate hem and haw man, i.e. G.W. Bush, defeated John Kerry and Al Gore soundly in several debates.

    August 21, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  4. Jordan - San Marcos TX

    I don't understand why two of the debates are in the same region of the country . There should be one on either coast and one in the middle.

    3 debates are standard.

    Obama '08

    August 21, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  5. W.

    Three Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debate has long been the modern General Election standard. Some of the posters here are showing their relative inexperience in the American political process. What can America learn from the, say, fifth debate that they wouldn't have already known by the third?

    August 21, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Obamalism

    This couldn't have worked about any better for McCain. He actually closed the gap in the polls BEFORE the debates.

    Where's that 20 point lead that Obama was supposed to have last month????????????

    Someone finally got vetted.

    It's a shame that talk radio and investigative bloggers had to do the major media's job for them.

    August 21, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. McCain=the draft

    Obama didn't agree to townhall meetings because he'd be a fool to let McCain dictate to him. And Obama is no fool!

    August 21, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Matt

    You do realize that Obama is about to lose even more support? He'll hit a brick wall without hit teleprompt.

    'I...uh...erm.. what I feel is important with this i-issue is that ummm... well, here's how i see it.'

    Obama supporters undoubtedly will claim that all the hosts are conservative.

    McCain will soon shine!

    August 21, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Jorge


    Col. Roosevelt, as POTUS, won the Nobel Peace prize for settling the Russo-Japanese War. Do you think he could have taken on the role of mediator in an international dispute if he jumped up and started beating his chest and condeming one side at the outset? Apparently you have forgotten his aphorism to speak softly and carry a big stick, not shout loudly when you have no stick, military or diplomatic.

    After the Saddleback forum, Pastor Rick Warren described Senator Obama as thoughtful and a cnsensus-builder. That is the kind of person we need directing our foreign policy.

    *phrase borrowed from Senator Lloyd Benson in the debate with Senator Dan Quayle

    August 21, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  10. Chris, NJ

    Obama said he would debate McCain any time any where. McCain was more than happy to do so and give him 5-10 debates but Obuma disappoints and decided 3 is all he can handle.

    also McCrazy
    you said, "Is anyone else sick of hearing about Iraq and the Surge that supposedly worked but actually hasnt? I say we send McCain to be the President of Iraq since that seems to be all that matters to him."

    If you read the news about a month ago pretty much every media source except msnbc reported on the success of the surge, the decrease in violence in iraq, and the fact that Al Qaeda will be leaving Iraq to focus on afghanistan because they realized they will not be able to drive us out.

    August 21, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. Tony

    I can't wait for the debates! And I love how Obama is such a coward that he won't do any of the town hall meetings with McCain. Too bad none of the debates are around where I live, I'd how up with a "Obama Campaign R.I.P" sign.

    August 21, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. Matt

    To those who are suggesting GOP Rule...

    The Democrats have been in power in Congress for the last 2 years. Congress has an even lower approval rating that the President. The Democrats rule the Congress and are getting nothing done. In fact, they continually take extended recesses just to avoid the pressing issues.

    And you want these people to have MORE power? Give me a break...

    August 21, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. California Gold

    Obama is smart, grasps the issues of importance to voters, and has the depth McCain lacks. McCain is good for tough talk, like Bush, but it's not going to go far with the millions with family in the military. Tough talk after McCain has voted against bills for these military families and servicemen and servicewomen is not gonna work. McCain also has a problem with his "maverick" persona, especially with the religious right. He can't be a maverick who flips off the pro-life religious right and expect their votes in November.

    Obama's campaign will follow each debate with hard hitting advertising blitz to drive home the topics of each debate. All McCain can do is hope for the best once his record and history is out there.

    August 21, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. Hello!!!

    PBS debate BO will be crushed.....his sound bites will no doubt be "I didn't vote for the war...oh, wait, I WASN"T ALLOWED to vote."

    NBC will be a love fest for BO from his liberal medial followers with cushy questions for him AFTER McCain has thoroughly answered the question first.

    CBS will be fair, but show BO's rediculous tax and spend ideas during a time when people are already suffering financially.

    August 21, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. Allen Friedman

    It is interesting to see how all the right wingers tell us all that is wrong with Obama but find it difficult to tell us why to vote for McCain. War and drilling is about all this man has to say. This man has no clue as to how to attempt to fix America and thus uses every way he can to avoid answering questions that deal with poverty in America, fixing Katrina, social security, home morguage problems, how to pay for the war, what has he offered in any ways to solve these proplems. If McCain were elected this country could be at war within six months with another country.

    August 21, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. Obamalism

    "Rodham Democrat – The south does not represent America."

    Take a flying leap you moron. Last I checked, there were 50 (yes 50, barack was wrong) states in this country. There's a reason why all of our votes count (unless you're a dem in Fl or Mi).

    Everyone represents America. WHO cares where the debates are? Are you saying Obama is at a disadvantage in Mississippi...where blacks have triple the average population of the rest of the country...where Obama gets +90% of their vote. He'll be fine...

    August 21, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Oh! The Irony

    Debby August 21st, 2008 10:19 am ET

    If John McCain is anything like he was in the forum Obama doesn't have a prayer. McCain is excellent in town halls, Obama dance's around the question for 10 minutes because he doesn't have the answer.

    You must not pay attention. Obama is great in townhalls....I've watched dozens.

    August 21, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Mike from CA.

    Bobby Digital – Could agree with you more – well said!!

    August 21, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. Obamalism

    2 minute response time, Oh noes Obama! 2 minutes is not enough time to talk out both sides of your mouth.

    It's hard to give a different answer to make everyone happy in only 2 minutes. Throw in the 'uhs, wells and hmms' every other word and he's likely to not get past the words "Hope and Change".

    August 21, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |

    O B A M A--W O N T-–D E B A T E--I N-–T O W N--H A L L S--

    B U T--H E--C A M P A I G N S-–I N--T H E M----

    S T I N K S-–O N--P O L I C Y-–U N S C R I P T E D--–

    D E B A T E

    August 21, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Steve/Houston,TX for Obama

    Abby August 21st, 2008 10:17 am ET

    Chris, NJ, only three??? Three 2 hour long debates is more than PLENTY to get through the issues! Any more would be pulling big crowds for McCain that he cant get himself and Obama‘s campaign aint no fool. They will not give McCain anymore of their limelight than they need to.
    I agree Abby! McCain can only pull about a hundred while Obama pulls thousands!!!!

    OBAMA '08/'12

    August 21, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  22. Central Scruitinizer

    Maybe by the time the first debate comes around McMemory can have a complete sentence prepared to answer how many houses he owns. Jeez the fact that he may be in proximity of a button that could launch missles is frightening.

    August 21, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. Pat Putignano

    As a Hofstra Undergrad and Law School alum, I will say, you will be rocked out of your seats by the professional manner in which my school will showcase the final debate! The complex where it will be held on campus is brand spank'n new, and will be the debate that ends all debates!

    August 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. Rob - WA

    All votors for McCain please join the armed forces as he will need you "my friends" for his wars of the future.

    August 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. Rambler

    @David: Your comment does nothing except wield the "Marx" label without substantiating it. My guess is that you believe Marx's first name was "Groucho."

    August 21, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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