How to Dress Up a Panel Discussion on the Cheap
December 3, 2019
Sixth Democratic Presidential Debate – Controlled Questions = No Debate
December 20, 2019

Next week’s Democratic Presidential debate will be overshadowed by the impeachment proceedings.  Even though the “historically diverse field” has narrowed to seven, I predict that it will be a bit more balanced yet as boring as ever.

Here’s why:

  • More Balanced Airtime.  After the last debate, Andrew Yang made a formal complaint about his chronic lack of airtime during the debates.  Actually, he’s been complaining about it since the very first debate – and he’s right.  He has the least airtime of all the candidates.  Part of this is moderator bias to ask more questions and allow more responses from the center of the stage/highest polling candidates and fewer questions to the “fringe” candidate.  The moderators also failed to mention him in any question, so the opportunity to rebut and add to the conversation was not a possibility.

    Mild-mannered Yang is forgetting one key strategy he can use to get more airtime:  The candidate so strongly butts in to the conversation that the moderator yields the floor to that candidate.  He actually interrupted ONCE during the Fourth Debate and had more airtime than he has ever had!  Will he or won’t he butt in to the conversation?  At the very least, the moderators will be more aware of the need to balance the airtime among the seven (versus 10 or 12) candidates.

  • Same Types of Questions.  Even with seven candidates, it’s a bit too many to have a deep conversation or even a debate.  So we’ll listen to the same kinds of questions as before.  I don’t think we’ll cover any new territory.
  • Better Questions.  Moderator Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour is the only veteran in the bunch.   (But that was different – it was a debate between two people – not seven!)  She will be joined by colleagues Amna Nawaz, senior national correspondent and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent as well as Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent at Politico.  I’d like to think that these moderators will be a bit more “even-handed” and “fair” in their approach to this debate – but we’ll see how that goes.   Politico is reported to have “minimal bias and use very few loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes).  The reporting is factual and usually sourced.”  Hallelujah!  I’m hoping that will show on stage.  [Note, I often quote Politico in my commentary on the debates].  However,  PBS is reported to have a left-center bias with “a slight to moderate liberal bias.  They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor liberal causes.  These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation.”   Certainly less left-leaning than prior debate hosts.  I also have no reason to believe that they will do anything different than the moderators who have gone before.

I am an optimist, and truly hope this will be an interesting and more balanced debate, but I’m not getting my hopes up.


For more information, check out my website at  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


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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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