Long-time journalist and CBS Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer will moderate the final presidential debate, and if reaction to the first three debates are any indication, he’ll need to draw on all his years of experience to get through it and come out unscathed.
Schieffer already has two presidential debates under his belt, in 2004 and 2008, writes Politico’s Dylan Byers, and when he moderates his third “he will do so with two candidates who have shown no qualms about riding roughshod over their moderators and disobeying the very ground rules their own campaigns agreed to honour.”
Not only have President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoken longer than their allotted time and disobeyed previous moderators, those moderators can’t escape criticism about how they did, or didn’t, enforce the rules that both candidates seemed so intent on breaking.
Debate No. 1 was moderated by long-time PBS News Hour host Jim Lehrer, who came under fire for being too soft on the candidates and for asking vague questions. If the public criticism wasn’t enough, Romney also told Lehrer, in his now infamous quote, that he loved Big Bird, but was ready to cut all federal funding to PBS.
Next up, ABC’s Martha Raddatz had the task of keeping Vice-president Joe Biden and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan on topic. While Raddatz’s performance was generally praised, some Republicans, including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, said Raddatz had a liberal bias, and was too hard on Ryan.
Perhaps taking criticism of Lehrer and debate No. 1 into account, CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley was ready to enforce the rules when she moderated the second town-hall-style debate between the candidates. But Crowley’s attempt to fact-check Romney for his incorrect claim that President Barack Obama did not refer to the consulate attack in Benghazi as an “act of terror” drew attacks from conservatives, even prompting CNN to clarify “The truth about what Candy Crowley said,” on its website.
Over at Poynter, researchers try to put some numbers behind all these accusations of bias, and a report cites a study that shows both Crowley and Raddatz did interrupt the Republican candidate more than the Democrat. Both candidates also cut off moderator Lehrer 30 times during the first debate, the study shows.
By Monday morning, pundits were weighing in on whether Schieffer has what it takes to moderate the final debate, in what is turning into a very close presidential race. Schieffer, meanwhile, was keeping a low profile. New York Times blog The Caucus notes that Schieffer has barely mentioned his important debate role in the lead up to the big day.