There is more that goes into a presidential debate than you might imagine. Aside from the production, staging, and location – the debate itself is unique. Presidential debates are used to get the candidates and their issues in front of the American people. The showcase helps voters solidify their decisions or even chose a candidate to begin with.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (or the CPD) is a private, neutral party that ensures the American public gets to see the candidates debate a wide variety of questions and issues. The CPD was formed in February of 1987 to ensure that a nonpartisan entity would host and conduct fair and appropriate debates for the benefit of American voters.
Today, there are a variety of formats in which the debates take place. Each one serves a unique purpose and provides a different experience for both candidates and viewers.
The moderator format is the most common debate format. One moderator is selected by the CPD on three qualifications. The moderator must be familiar with the candidates and the major issues of the particular presidential campaign. The must also have a lot of experience in live broadcast news. Finally, they must understand that the debate should focus as much attention as possible on the candidates and their views.
The selected moderator comes up with the questions for the debate and is responsible for keeping candidates on track. If the candidates go over their allotted time to answer or do not answer the question asked, it is the moderator’s job to keep the debate going and focused.
The panelist format is similar to a moderator format. This time, there are multiple people who come up with the questions. This format can also have a designated moderator to ensure the debate goes over smoothly.
Town Hall Format
The town hall format is a debate the gets half of its questions from the moderator and half from the audience in attendance. This is an even higher voter-centered debate because most citizens asking the questions are undecided and are asking for answers that could sway them from one candidate to another.
No matter what format, debates are a great way for the American people to see who what each candidate stands for and what their plans are. The candidates are not given the questions beforehand, so they are forced to rely on their knowledge and answer according to their beliefs and overall campaign platform.