The Secret Debate Rules Obama and Romney Agreed To

Elspeth Reeve
The Secret Debate Rules Obama and Romney Agreed To

There are the public rules for each presidential debate -- how long the candidates get for each answer, how long they get to respond -- and then there are the secret rules their campaigns agreed to in a memorandum of understanding with the Commission on Presidential Debates. That memorandum is now public, posted by Time's Mark Halperin. What did the Obama and Romney campaigns demand?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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No shout outs. The candidates are forbidden from calling out to a person in the audience unless it's a family member.

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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?"

No demanding anyone take a pledge.

No audience clapping.

No sweat. "The Commission shall use best efforts to maintain an appropriate temperature as agreed to by the campaigns."

The 2012 Debates - Memorandum of Understanding Between the Obama and Romney Campaigns