Slatest PM: The Moderating-the-Moderator Edition

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 15 2012 4:48 PM

Slatest PM: The Moderating-the-Moderator Edition

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Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

MODERATING THE MODERATOR: Political reporters and partisan talking heads wasted little time issuing verdicts on the performances of moderators Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz earlier this month, heaping criticism on the former and praise on the latter before either journalists had even left their respective debate chairs. Tomorrow's moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley, probably wishes she were so lucky.

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OH, THIS THEY CAN AGREE ON: Time magazine reports that lawyers for both the Obama and the Romney campaigns have formally voiced concerns to the Commission of Presidential Debates that Crowley will use a heavy hand during tomorrow's town hall event in New York. The campaigns are pointing to her recent comments suggesting she plans to take an active role to ensure the two men on stage won't be able to talk their way around difficult questions posed by the audience members. "Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, 'Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?,'" Crowley said last week in one example of her comments being cited by both camps.

WAIT, WHAT? While Crowley's comments may sound like exactly what one would expect from a reporter tasked with moderating a debate, the problem appears to be that the campaigns seemed to be under the impression that she'd act as a moderator in name only.

Crowley's assignment—as defined by the commission and the two campaigns—is to take a much more hands-off role than either of the two moderators who came before her. While Lehrer and Raddatz challenged Obama/Romney and Biden/Ryan with varying-degrees of follow-ups, both ultimately were given more or less free rein to ask their questions how they saw fit. Not so for Crowley, who isn't allowed to "rephrase the [audience member's] question or open a new topic ... ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate," according to a memo signed by both camps earlier this month that set the ground rules.

SO WHAT CAN SHE DO? Again, per the document: "acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.”

SO EVERYONE'S ON THE SAME PAGE? Um, not really. While the campaigns and the commission hashed out the ground rules, and the commission tapped Crowley as moderator, there is no sign that Crowley at any time agreed to the strict hands-off moderating policy, according to Time. Neither the commission nor Crowley are really commenting on the issue, other than to suggest they'll talk it over. 

WHY MODERATORS MATTER: The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza: "Do we understand why the campaigns want Crowley, one of the best political journalists in the business, to be seen but not heard? Absolutely. Is it an absolutely ridiculous request? Absolutely. For anyone who wonders why, go back and think how many town halls politicians have held over the years and how many of them have yielded any news or genuine insight into the candidates or their positions. If that number isn’t zero, it’s darn close."

HAPPY MONDAY and welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow the entire team @slatest and your afternoon host @JoshVoorhees, or fill his inbox with your thoughts about what you want to see more (or less) of in the PM newsletter every day at josh.voorhees@slate.com.

POLLING UPDATE: The Washington Post: "On the eve of their second debate, President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney remain locked in a virtual dead heat nationally, with Republicans showing increased enthusiasm for their nominee after his big win in the first debate, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Likely voters in the new poll split 49 percent for Obama to 46 percent for Romney, basically unmoved from the poll two weeks ago, just before the two candidates met in Denver for their first debate. On topic after topic, the survey portrays an electorate that remains deeply divided along partisan lines and locked in its views."

HPV VACCINES: The Associated Press: "Shots that protect against cervical cancer do not make girls promiscuous, according to the first study to compare medical records for vaccinated and unvaccinated girls. The researchers didn't ask girls about having sex, but instead looked at 'markers' of sexual activity after vaccination against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV. Specifically, they examined up to three years of records on whether girls had sought birth control advice; tests for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy; or had become pregnant."

MALALA UPDATE: Reuters: "A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban has every chance of making a 'good recovery,' British doctors said on Monday as 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai arrived at a hospital in central England for treatment of her severe wounds. ... 'Doctors believe she has a chance of making a good recovery on every level,' said Dr Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director, adding that her treatment and rehabilitation could take months."

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS: The New York Times: "More political commercials have been broadcast in this city than anywhere else, giving it the dubious distinction of being the most saturated media market in the most profligate year in American politics. And late last week, when the count passed 73,000, Las Vegas set the record as the place with the most televised campaign advertisements in a single year." 

WE HOPE YOU BOUGHT US SOMETHING NICE: The Wall Street Journal: "Americans opened their wallets in September, boosting spending on everything from iPhones to restaurant meals in the latest sign that the consumer economy is gaining strength even as other sectors are weakening. Retail and restaurant sales rose a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in September from August, and the Commerce Department also boosted its estimate for sales over the summer. Sales have now risen for three consecutive months after flagging during the spring."

HANDING OUT THE HARDWARE: The Washington Post: "Two researchers whose work has made for better matchups among students and the schools they wish to attend, and between kidney donors and recipients, were awarded the Nobel prize in economics Monday. Lloyd Shapley and Alvin E. Roth will share the $1.2 million prize for work that broke new theoretical ground (in the case of Shapley) and resulted in concrete uses for that theory (developed by Roth). It is an award that is not terribly relevant to the great macroeconomic crises of the day, but honors work that gave a deeper understanding of how markets work and put that knowledge to use for the practical benefit of humanity."

MORE: Matthew Yglesias: "Economics is closely associated with the idea of money, but economic life extends beyond what can be or is monetized, as shown by the winners of this year’s economics Nobel Prize, Lloyd Shapley of UCLA and Alvin Roth of Stanford, 'for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.' What makes their work in these fields stand out is that it primarily describes markets without any money at all." Full story here.

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