10th Democratic Presidential Debate: Free-For-All!
February 26, 2020
11th Democratic Debate: Even-Handed & Calmer
March 16, 2020

CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash, “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper, and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos will serve as moderators for this week’s Democratic presidential debate in Phoenix, Arizona.  Univision’s Ilia Calderón will join the team to handle audience questions.

Unlike the free-for-all we witnessed at the last debate, these moderators have actually moderated a presidential primary debate!  Yes, experience matters and Bash and Tapper teamed up to moderate “Round 2” (occurred over two nights so they got twice the experience) and Ramos moderated the third debate.

According to Nielsen, an average of 15.3 million viewers watched the last debate and the stakes are even higher.  The two (count ’em!) remaining candidates represent significantly different platforms that need to be explored.

Since there are only two candidates and only two hours, perhaps the moderators will move from the 75-second response/45-second rebuttal ground rule.  A longer time to allow for a deeper discussion with some actual back-and-forth between the candidates would be lovely. The moderators in the 9th Debate encouraged the candidates to “directly engage with each other.”  Let’s hope they encourage direct conversation again, but with a dose of structure and not as much crosstalk!  (Just check out the spike in crosstalk during the last two debates!)

The moderators will ask probing questions that draw out the candidates’ differences in their policies, positions, and how they plan to get it done.

  • Bash will lead the debate this time and set the tone.  She tends to ask short, crisp questions that compare and contrast the candidates followed by a “Please respond.”  She’s all business and wants her questions answered.
  • Tapper’s questioning style is to make a statement about the candidate (sometimes true, suspected, or even leading) and then ask, “How do you respond?”
  • Ramos asked some piercing questions about immigration, foreign policy in Latin America in his last debate (to Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “Do you think that people who support President Trump and his immigration policies are racist?”)

You can expect more of the same from all of them – with topics of critical importance to voters.  (Unlike the last debate, Bash, Tapper, and Ramos have a track record of discussing relevant topics!)

Even though front-runner Joe Biden likes to play by the rules and stay on time, let’s hope the moderators facilitate the conversation without being too controlling, probe deeper when a candidate says something new to explore and keep the conversation civil among two rivals.


For more information, check out my website at www.RulesAnalyst.com.  Book me now to comment (live, Zoom, or pre-recorded interviews) on the next debate by calling me at 480.399.8489 or set up a time to talk here


Related Articles:

12 Moderator Mishaps that Derail a Presidential Debate

16 Types of Debate Questions used in the 2019 Democratic Primary Debates

2020 Democratic Debates: Stats on Open, Closed, and Follow-Up Questions


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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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