The Secret Debate Rules
Time’s Mark Halperin managed to get his hands on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Romney and Obama campaigns that governs all three Presidential debates and the Vice-Presidential debate. The contents are a virtual cornucopia of rules designed to make sure that nothing of substance actually happens:
No reaction shots. “To the best of the Commission’s abilities, there will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question or to a candidate who is not giving a closing statement while another candidate is doing so.” TV guys, you so broke this rule.
The town hall will be strictly regulated. In the town hall debate Tuesday, Candy Crowley “shall select the questioners, but she may not ‘coach’ the questioners.” Questioners cannot ad lib their questions. Crowley cannot ask follow-ups. If a questioner tries to as a follow-up, they will cut off his microphone.
No show of hands. This could be because Obama keeps attacking Romney for raising his hand at a Republican primary debate when the candidates were asked whether they’d take a deal that was 10 parts spending cuts to 1 part tax increases. Or it’s just because those questions are inexact and frustrating.
No shout outs. The candidates are forbidden from calling out to a person in the audience unless it’s a family member.
No accessories. Romney is not allowed to bring his PowerPoint or any other “tangible things.”
No direct questions. Obama and Romney aren’t supposed to ask each other stuff, like “What about the Dingell-Norwood bill?“
And the rules for tonight’s “Town Hall” Debate specifically state that the moderator isn’t allowed to ask follow-up questions.
Here’s the full memorandum: