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Video:What to Expect at a Presidential Debate

with Nathan Buck

The Presidential debates involve topics concerning foreign policy to the economy. In this About.com video, learn about the three debate formats, and how many Presidential debates there are.See Transcript

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Transcript:What to Expect at a Presidential Debate

Hi, my name is Nathan Buck for About.com and today I am going to give you a few ideas on what to expect from a Presidential debate.

How Many Presidential Debates are there?

There are normally 4 debates. Three between the presidential candidates and one for the vice presidential candidates. The debates will occur in September and October after both the Republican and Democratic conventions have been held and the parties have officially chosen their respective nominees.

Presidential Debate Topics

Of the three presidential debates, one will be about foreign policy, one will focus on domestic policy and one will be a general debate.

Presidential Debate Format

The format of each debate will be slightly different. However, all of the debates take place in a public auditorium, usually at a university with members of the public present-either in a participatory way-as in the Town Hall style debates, or as silent spectators.

Traditionally the first one will have the two candidates standing at podiums facing a moderator who is usually a senior, nationally respected television journalist. The journalist will have prepared questions which have not been revealed to either of the candidates. In this format, the debate will be structured as a series of 6 to 9 segments which are then sub-divided into two or three questions. Whichever candidate has won a coin toss before the debate will respond first to the initial question.

Although arbitrary time limits vary from one debate to another-usually the candidates have 2 minutes to answer a question, and his or her opponent will then have one to two minutes to respond or offer a rebuttal. The time limits are enforced by a countdown clock which is visible to each candidate and allows them to see how much time they have left. Since the 3 way debates of 1992-the town hall style of debating has been used in every election. In this format, a polling organization, like Gallup, chooses a representative group of undecided voters who are then invited to each submit questions which are submitted ahead of time to the moderator-but not disclosed to the candidates. The moderator then chooses a set of these questions and calls on the individual who proceeds to directly address one of the candidates. The candidates respond in turn to the individual who is not allowed to ask any follow up questions.

A third debate is usually held with both nominees seated across a conference table from a moderator. And in this style of debate, the candidates often directly address each other, instead of the moderator or the public. Finally in all of the debates each candidate is allowed to make a closing statement which is their final appeal and sales pitch to voters. In contrast to party primary debates, nominees in presidential debates tend to tailor their message for centrist, independent voters who usually decide the election.

And that was a little information about what to expect at a presidential debate. To learn more please visit About.com.

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