McCain, Obama agree on presidential debate format

News today on the upcoming presidential and vice presidential debates that both campaigns have officially agreed on a more open format for the 3 presidential debates. The vice presidential debate, at the request of the McCain campaign, will have a more organized and structured format.

For the full Obama/McCain debate schedule, click here.

Report from the New York Times:

The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates, which begin Friday, but the McCain camp fought for and won a much more structured approach for the questioning at the vice-presidential debate, advisers to both campaigns said Saturday.

At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.

The wrangling was chiefly between the McCain-Palin camp and the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which is sponsoring the forums.

Commission members wanted a relaxed format that included time for unpredictable questioning and challenges between the two vice-presidential candidates. On Wednesday, the commission unanimously rejected a proposal sought by advisers to Ms. Palin and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, to have the moderator ask questions and the candidates answer, with no time for unfettered exchanges. Advisers to Mr. Biden say they were comfortable with either format.

Both campaigns see the four debates as pivotal moments in a presidential race that is not only extraordinarily close but also drawing intense interest from voters; roughly 40 million viewers watched the major speeches at the two parties’ conventions. The upheaval in the financial markets has recast the race in recent days, moreover, which both sides believe will only heighten attention for the debates.

A commission member said that the new agreement on the vice-presidential debate was reached late Saturday morning. It calls for shorter blocks of candidate statements and open discussion than at the presidential debates.

McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.

While the debates between presidential nominees are traditionally the main events in the fall election season, the public interest in Ms. Palin has proved extraordinary, and a large audience is expected for her national debate debut.

Indeed, both the McCain and Obama campaigns have similar concerns about the vice-presidential matchup in St. Louis: that Ms. Palin, of Alaska, as a new player in national politics, or Mr. Biden, of Delaware, as a loquacious and gaffe-prone speaker, could commit a momentum-changing misstep in their debate.

The open format for the presidential debates should be interesting as I think that type of back-and-forth was lost in the primary debates. I like the idea of the candidates questioning each other, as if they’re actually debating an issue between the two of them, not just responding to the moderator.

As for the vice presidential debate, this doesn’t surprise me. The McCain camp is trying to create a more structure environment for Palin, however, the Obama campaign didn’t reject a more structure format since I’m sure they’d like to avoid any Biden gaffes.

Putting money down now, will the VP debate draw the most viewers individually? I’m betting so.

For more details on each of the debates including the date and time, check this page:

Official 2008 Obama/McCain Presidential Debate Schedule