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Candy Crowley: What you need to know about her role in today's presidential debate

/ Oct 17, 2012 8:06AM / Print / ()

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Candy Crowley: What you need to know about her role in today...

Today is presidential debate round two, and most of the world will be taking notes on President Obama's performance following his much maligned first round. 

However, it's moderator Candy Crowley whose performance is already under scrutiny, before the debate's even begun.

Crowley is CNN chief political correspondent and host of Sunday morning talk show State of the Union. She's an award winning journalist who's been covering presidential elections for over 30 years.

She is also the first woman to take on the role of US presidential debate moderator in 20 years.

When Crowley's role was announced, it was to much celebration from women's groups. It followed a 160,000-signature petition from three teenage girls in New Jersey, eager to hear a female voice in the political debate.

So what can we expect from Crowley in today's debate?

According to Mark Halperin, she has already managed the unthinkable, by uniting the presidential candidates in their joint fear that she will steer the debate in a non-traditional way by taking on a more active role as moderator.

"In a rare example of political unity, both the Romney and Obama campaigns have expressed concern to the Commission on Presidential Debates about how the moderator of this Tuesday's town hall has publicly described her role."

Crowley had previously stated her intent to broaden her responsibilities at the town-hall style debate, beyond mere 'fly-on-the-wall' moderation and to also widen the conversation by steering the direction of discussion and asking follow up questions.

As Crowley put it last week, "Once 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?'"

However, following complaints from both parties, the debate's commission released a "memorandum of understanding" — agreed to by the commission and both campaigns — regarding Crowley's limited role.

According to the memo "the moderator will 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, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period."

Crowley has now been given the only presidential debate where the moderator is expected to keep their mouth shut.

Carole Simpson, the first female presidential debate moderator in 1992 — told MSNBC that she believes sexism played a role in giving Crowley the least involved debate for a moderator.

"I think it might have something to do with the fact that the Commission on Presidential Debates is made up mostly of men," Simpson said. "I think of the 17 members, only two are women."

However, Crowley doesn't appear fazed by the memo, appearing on CNN Monday afternoon and declaring that she would ignore the debate commission's rules.

"As was the case in the Charlie Gibson town hall meeting and the Tom Brokaw town hall meeting in presidential campaigns past, there was a time after that for follow-up and for furthering the discussion," said Crowley.

And after a blanket silence on women's issues during the first round debate, it would certainly be beneficial to have Crowley pushing that agenda forward - and having the nominees answer the tough questions concerning their stance on women's rights.

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