Debate Rules Bar Follow-Up Questions—From Everyone

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 16 2012 10:14 AM

There Are To Be No Follow-Up Questions of Any Kind at Tonight's Debate

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Time-llimit timers on the table for tonight's town hall debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Photograph by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/GettyImages.

As we explained yesterday, the Obama and Romney campaigns have set some interesting ground rules for tonight's town hall debate. Most notably, neither camp wants the moderator to do a whole lot of moderating, specifically requesting that Candy Crowley doesn't ask any follow-up questions to a candidate who may choose to talk his way around a difficult question.

So then where will the follow-ups come from? By the looks of the memo signed by both campaigns, they won't come at all. The document not only bars Crowley from asking them, but also the audience members and even the other candidate on stage.

  • 7 (c), IV: "The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invited the candidate comments during the 2 minute response period."
  • 7 (d): "The audience members shall not ask follow-up questions or otherwise participate in the extended discussion, and the audience member's microphone shall be turned off after he or she completes asking the questions."
  • 5 (e): "The candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates."
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Here's the document, which covers all four presidential and VP debates, and was first obtained by Time magazine. Tonight's town-hall specific rules start on Page 6.

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