Women’s issues—which embody the economy, health care, and reproductive rights—have gone largely ignored during the presidential and vice presidential debates. Never mind that they affect more than half the U.S. population. One cause for optimism is the fact that, like the vice-presidential debate, tonight’s town-hall style presidential debate will have a female moderator. Unfortunately, the woman moderator may be just a symbolic bone thrown to women voters.
The woman with the mic will be CNN’s Candy Crowley. Her role is to manage the questions coming from townhall participants and keep the debate on track. But both campaigns are now raising objections that Crowley might ask follow-up questions to clarify a candidate’s response. What they believed they had agreed to initially, they claim, was having her relay questions from the audience… and no more.
Via Time Magazine:
While an early-October memorandum of understanding between the Obama and Romney campaigns suggests that CNN’s Candy Crowley would play a limited role in the Tuesday-night session, Crowley, who is not a party to that agreement, has done a series of interviews on her network in which she has suggested that she will assume a broader set of responsibilities. As Crowley put it last week, “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?’”
In the view of the two campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the debate moderator. The questioning of the two candidates is supposed to be driven by the audience members — likely voters selected by the Gallup Organization. Crowley’s assignment differs from those of the three other debate moderators, who in the more standard format are supposed to lead the questioning and follow up when appropriate.
This is a historic moment for women on the political scene—Crowley will be the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. Luckily, whether the campaigns are happy about it or not, Crowley appears to be unwilling to accept a role just as a mouthpiece. Will this be good news for voters concerned about women’s issues?