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2008 Presidential Debates: Dates, Moderators, Formats


2008 Presidential Debates: Dates, Moderators, Formats
In late 2007, the non-partisan, non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates announced the dates, locations and formats of its three debates between the 2008 presidential candidates Democrat Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, and one debate between the vice-presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden and the Republican nominee.

All debates will be 90 minutes in length and start at 9:00 PM Eastern time. Each debate will be administered by a single moderator.

Presidential debate
Date: Friday, September 26, 2008
Debate focus: Foreign Policy & National Security
Moderator: Jim Lehrer of PBS will ask the question
Format: Standing at podiums

Location: University of Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi

Vice Presidential debate
Date: Thursday, October 2, 2008
Debate focus: Domestic and foreign policies

Location: Washington University
St. Louis, Missouri

Presidential debate
Date: Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Debate focus: Issues posed over internet and by audience members
Moderator: Tom Brokaw of NBC News
Format: Town Hall style

Location: Belmont University
Nashville, Tennessee

Presidential debate
Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Debate focus: Domestic and Economic Policies
Moderator: Bob Schieffer of CBS News
Format: Sitting at a table

Location: Hofstra University
Hempstead, New York

The two backup sites are Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


The Commission specifies:

"Each of those debates will be divided into 8 ten-minute issue segments; the moderator will introduce each segment with an issue on which each candidate will comment, after which the moderator will facilitate further discussion of the issue, including direct exchange between the candidates, for the balance of that segment. Time will be reserved for closing statements by each of the candidates in each debate."


Candidates must meet all three eligibility requirements (below) to be included in the debates sponsored by the Commission. (Source: Commission on Presidential Debates)

1. Evidence of Constitutional Eligibility
The CPD's first criterion requires satisfaction of the eligibility requirements of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. The requirements are satisfied if the candidate:

  • a. is at least 35 years of age;
  • b. is a Natural Born Citizen of the United States and a resident of the United States for fourteen years; and
  • c. is otherwise eligible under the Constitution.
2. Evidence of Ballot Access
The CPD's second criterion requires that the candidate qualify to have his/her name appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2008 general election.

Under the Constitution, the candidate who receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College, at least 270 votes, is elected President regardless of the popular vote.

3. Indicators of Electoral Support
The CPD's third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.

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