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. Sue from California

    Wolf Blitzer moderated a debate during the primaries and he was terrible. He couldn't control anything or anyone.

    It seems to be that we have always had 3 presidential debates and one VP debate. Anyone know the history?

    August 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. Biffington, Biff


    the paid RNC bloggers are out in FORCE today....



    August 21, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Doug, New Jersey

    Ha ha, O-bahhhh-ma will only debate when he gets pre-arranged questions so that someone can give him lines to read just like the mindless actors in Hollywood who support this racist socialist.

    Really he just needs to answer one question. You have attended your mentor Rev. Wright's church for 20 years, you know the man who married you and your wife and baptised your children. You now distance yourself from this man as you are running for president. Is it that you stood by him for 20 years because you support and believe his racist rantings or is it that you are such a horrible judge of charecter that is takes you 20 years to conclude someone is a hateful racist that the average American figured out in 20 seconds? 🙂

    August 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  4. DAN

    Both candidates should be searched to make sure they're not hiding electronic ear devices. The way Obama gaffed on saddleback, he might decide to cheat because when you accuse the other guy of cheating it means that's what you would have done. Don't trust Obama he'll use every dirty trick to win especially after saddleback.

    August 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. gm


    August 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. checkthisout



    August 21, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Thomas

    Three debates are sufficient. If you are still undecided after three separate debates then more won't change your position.

    On a procedural note. It is important to delay any debates between Obama and McCain until after they are officially nominated by their parties at the respective convention.

    Right now they are only officially the presumptive candidate.

    Three is a good number. Can't see the benefit of more debates between the same two people.

    August 21, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  8. Adam

    And to those saying so few, this is how many debates have typically happened in the last few presidential elections.

    To those saying only 3, why not more? There are actually 4, the details of the last one to be released after the VP announcements.

    August 21, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. Doug, New Jersey

    From McSame:

    "get him Obama and don't let him breath"

    Wait, are you implying that McCain is one of those many Americans that Obama said he would get their much needed "breathalizers"?

    Why don't you want McCain to get one? Do you also refuse to allow McCains 5 year old grandchildren to hear all about the sex-ed you support them recieving in Kindergarden as well? 🙂

    August 21, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. jim in DC

    Abby if they were so confident with what they were saying, then they would want to expose McCain in front of all of those people. If Obama made McCain look like a fool in the debates then the exposure would help him. The problem is Obama lacks any real policies that would actuall benefit america.

    August 21, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. TheTruthHurts

    So much will be resolved by these debates. The lies about tax policy. The fact that NO REPUBLICAN IN 20 years has done ANYTHING to address health care. The fact that McCain supported attack Iraq BEFORE 9/11. The fact that Obama has difficulty giving a simple answer regarding abortion and the surge (because the answer is as complex as the issue for most Americans). The fact that McCain is another "have a beer with me" politician and Obama is an intellectual thinker who actually answers the question in depth (except when he's dodging, which they all do. The other thing we'll see is STATURE. They both will be comfortable in their skin, but Obama will tower over McCain. We'll see McCain use all the Rovian tactics of interrupting Obama and trying to make him angry. Bush was great at that.

    McCain is smarter than I thought (moreso than Bush), but he's also more of a warmonger. Obama is not reading the situation as well as I'd like. Don't know if it's him or his advisors. Regardless, McCain's policies would be a disaster. Also, he would get NOTHING done with a Dem congress and this cycle folks, we NEED to get something done.

    August 21, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. Janet WV for Obama

    I am sick and tired of McCain trying to tell Obama what he better do and of the diehard McCain supporters making crazy comments like "chicken". Obama is by far the better debater on a level playing field. ABC and Rick Warren know nothing about fair play. Why couldn't Warren have placed both candidates in a sound proof room, allowed the candidates themselves to toss the coin and allowed no access to questions? Any true Christian would have done this. The truth is that he knew McCain needed all the help he could get and Warren, being a Republican, helped him out.

    August 21, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  13. ran

    Now americans will see the real difference; that is if they open their eyes and ears and not let fear control them. Obama is the only true option and it will be apparent during the debats. Citizen if you want your country back Obama and the Democrats is the only way. Vote only Democrates this time and Obama.

    August 21, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. Anonymous

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

    Actually, many won't have a choice, as McCain said he is not opposed to reinstating the draft.

    Really, CNN, this gets NO coverage at all?

    Either he meant it, or he was unable to remain on task long enough to give a non-inflammatory answer. Either way, we've heard nothing from his campaign in the way of spin or damage control.

    August 21, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  15. Used to be a repuglican

    Where are all those people screaming that Obama wouldn't debate McCain? Now will you please shut up. And Obama just didn't let mccain control the debates and why should he? Who the heck does mccain think he is?

    August 21, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |

    McCain did very well in the faith forum. I encourage him to enter the debates with just as much fervor. Considering the fact that he had prior access to the questions and time for his staff to formulate answers he would memorize quickly his faith forum responses were short and direct with little or no explanation.

    In a debate format he will have to think on his feet – lets see what he's made of. I imagine several moments like when the report said "health insurance company's cover viagra but not birth control" do you have a position on that. McCain reached for his chin and said hummmmmmmm.

    Can't wait.

    August 21, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. Rose

    Obama doesn't stand a chance, he is terrible at off the cuff questions, all he does is and uh constantly, I think that gives him time to think of a good answer. He fails at this typle of debate and he knows it that is why he refused to have town hall debates with McCain. Not his strong point.

    August 21, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Rob indetroit

    I think jamican's are doping am i the only one who notice the gold going to people who came out of nowhere, they didn't win the world championships this year so i'm wating for the day when they get busted.

    August 21, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. Promises, promises...change, change...

    That liberal, jawin' junkie is going down for the count...three three different arenas. He better wear an Appolo Creed Uncle Sam suit and not be crying "Hillary!!!" when he finds himself face down, at the edge of the spotlight. It's going to get real bad. Someone better bring a stick of chalk so that we can finally get a clear outline of who Obama really is!

    August 21, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  20. Joe Kiloz

    O B A M A-W I L L-A N N O U N C E-–H I L L A R Y--T O --B E-–

    C O-D E B A T E R-A G A I N S T --M C C A I N

    August 21, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  21. Marc PDX

    I find it truly sad that with kind of events that are going on in the world and in America these days that they can't seem to find a way to debate each other more than three times. Truly Sad!

    (But I know why.)

    August 21, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. Sherri

    OBAMA SMACKDOWN!!! Not some fake faith forum that we saw last Saturday. No CONE of SILENCE that never was. McCain unchained is dangerous and these debates will show that. All his misstatements have been when he tries to think on his feet. McCain can't even answer how many houses he has? He talks about reinstating the DRAFT?. He talks about in dollars how is a person considered RICH and he says if they earn 5 million dollars AND then says oh just kiddin?????. Like what is happening in this country is a something to joke about.. This guy has no clue the day to day struggles of the middle & low income people and it will be shown on FULL SCREEN with these honest debates.

    August 21, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Valorie Jay - Raleigh

    In the Saddleback debate – I did not want to think that the man I so respected, John McCain, knew the questions before they were asked but, after watching the debate, that is what I have come to believe. The Rev. asked deep, far-reaching questions which required careful though and then these thoughts have to be transulated by the brain into words. Any person who has ever participated in a debate knows this. That is exactly when I saw Obama do. But with McCain, that was not the case. He shot the answers out immediately without processing the questions and formulating his response. I expected better of John McCain.

    August 21, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |

    D E B A T E S--A B O V E -–O B A M A' S--P A Y--G R A D E

    August 21, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. Republicans Hate America

    why is it an ad that has facts about mccain own gaffes is now negative and ads with paris hilton and briney spears is viewed as having meaning?..oh yeah this country is filled with a bunch of proud ignorant hillbillies.

    August 21, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
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