NRO’s Jim Geraghty outlined the rules of tonight’s debate in his morning newsletter.
-Neither candidate is allowed to ask direct questions of the other.
-The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges.
-Neither candidate may point to or cite folks in the audience besides family members.
-Rules of tonight’s debate say no “speeches, statements, or comments” by audience questioners. Good luck with that one. The rules do say that the microphone is to be cut off once the question is asked.
-The only audience participation is supposed to be the asking of the questions; no cheering, jeering, applause, or other response outside of the introductions.
-At no debate shall the moderator ask for “a show of hands” or similar calls for response.
-No closing statement tonight; for the final debate, candidates will have a choice of either a 90-second or two-minute closing statement.
-No issuing challenges or ultimatums for additional debates, no appearing at other forums, and no accepting television or radio offers that involve a debate format.
Also, according to the rules the moderator is not supposed to ask follow up questions, but Candy Crowley has said she will violate that rule. It may not be a big deal, and if she’s fair with her follow up questions it shouldn’t be a problem. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
In the newsletter, Geraghty also noted something that may pose a problem for President Obama.
Obama has probably been told a million times to hit the “47 percent” comment early and often. The big question is how aggressive he can be in the town-hall setting without coming across as dislikeable. (Note that Obama is really tough when his opponents can’t hit back, such as when he denounced Ryan’s plan in April 2011 to an audience that included Ryan, or when he demonized the Supreme Court in that State of the Union Address, with Alito and the gang sitting right in front of him. He loves the uneven playing field and hasn’t had to share a stage with someone who can make counterarguments since McCain in autumn 2008. Up against Romney, he hesitated, even nudging Lehrer to move on to another topic at one point.)
He certainly doesn’t want to come off looking like Biden did in the VP debate. That was just embarrassing. I’ve heard from die-hard Democrats who thought he was horrible.
Obama also has to worry about that other 47%, but he won’t be bringing that up at the debate seeing that it has to do with his shrinking poll numbers. (Sorry, I couldn’t find a link to the email newsletter.)
Something else to keep in mind during this town hall debate – Obama doesn’t really like people all that much. So there’s that.