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Veteran political reporter Mark Halperin reported on Monday that the Obama and Romney campaigns had both voiced concerns about Tuesday night’s debate moderator Candy Crowley of CNN. Halperin made reference to an “early October memorandum of understanding” signed by both campaigns that set some ground rules for the three presidential debates.
Now, Halperin has made the entire 21-page document public, and the provisions found in the agreement will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows.
The deal was reportedly struck on October 3, the day of the first presidential debate in Denver. Halperin writes the “negotiators and signers were veteran Washington campaign lawyers Bob Bauer (for the president) and Ben Ginsberg (for Mitt Romney).”
As a part of the restrictive deal, the two candidates are not allowed to ask each other “direct questions” or walk outside a “predesignated area.” Further, for Tuesday’s town hall style debate, no audience members or the moderator will be allowed to ask follow-up questions. This appears to be where Crowley strayed away from the terms of the agreement as she said she may ask her own follow up questions.
The Commission on Presidential Debates and the debate moderators are not parties to the agreement, Halperin writes.
Gawker has more analysis:
Most bizarrely, given the way the debates have played out, the rules actually appear to forbid television coverage from showing reaction shots of the candidates: “To the best of the Commission’s abilities, there will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question or to a candidate who is not giving a closing statement while another candidate is doing so.” The “best of the Commission’s abilities” must be rather feable, seeing as how almost every moment of the two debates so far was televised in split-screen, clearly showing shots of a “candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question.”
Here are some of the highlights found in the memorandum of understanding:
• Each debate shall begin at 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
• The parties agree that they “will not (1) issue any challenge for additional debates, (2) appear at any other debate or adversarial forums except as agreed to by the parties, or (3) accept any television or radio air time offers that involve a debate format”
• Candidates aren’t allowed to cite anyone in the audience other than family members during debates.
• Candidates aren’t allowed to address questions to each other or ask the other candidate to take a pledge.
• Moderators are not allowed to ask “show of hands” questions.
Even without the discovery of the agreement, Town halls have undoubtedly lost some of their spontaneity. The 80 or so undecided voters chosen for Tuesday’s debate must submit their questions in advance and Crowley will decide which people to call on.
Read the entire 21-page agreement: