Stand-ins for Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama, right, run through a rehearsal with moderator Candy Crowley, back to camera, ahead of Tuesday's presidential debate, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. / AP
Moderator Candy Crowley promised Tuesday that she won't be afraid to insert herself into the conversation at tonight's town hall debate despite pressure from the campaigns to largely keep quiet.
The presidential campaigns put together a "memorandum of understanding" mandating that the moderator of the town-hall style debate "not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits." The document is not released to the public but was leaked to Time Magazine, and it details how the campaigns come together to agree to a set of rules designed to protect the candidates from unexpected moments.
After Crowley said last week that she planned to assert herself during the town hall debate - telling CNN that "[o]nce the table is kind of set by the town hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, 'Hey, wait a second, what about x, y, z?'" - the campaigns complained to the Commission on Presidential Debates that she wasn't following their script. While the Commission is independent and did not publicly sign off on the memorandum of understanding, it is effectively controlled by the major parties.
Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the Commission, told CBS News Monday that Crowley "got out in front of herself" in discussing her role as moderator. He said the Commission had passed along the campaigns' concerns to Crowley and stated that it is not her job, for example, to note that the State Department disputes what a candidate has said.
Crowley did not sign off on the memorandum of understanding, and she continues to assert that she will not simply stand on the debate sidelines.
"They will call on 'Alice,' and 'Alice' will stand up and ask a question. Both candidates will answer. Then there's time for a follow-up question, facilitating a discussion, whatever you want to call it," Crowley told CNN on Tuesday. "So if Alice asks oranges, and someone answers apples, there's the time to go, 'But Alice asked oranges? What's the answer to that?" Or, 'Well, you say this, but what about that?'"
Crowley is only the second woman to be given the honor of moderating a presidential debate. The first was Carole Simpson, in 1992. Both women have been assigned the town hall debate, something Simpson lamented in an op-ed last month. While men are assigned the debates where they are tasked with questioning the candidates, Simpson wrote, women are reduced to the role of the "lady with the microphone."