Is CNN's Candy Crowley overstepping her role as debate moderator?

Obama and Romney both have problems with Crowley's proposed approach to the town-hall debate

Candy Crowley
(Image credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO)

The controversy: "In a rare example of political unity, both the Romney and Obama campaigns have expressed concern to the Commission on Presidential Debates about how the moderator of the Tuesday town hall has publicly described her role," says Mark Halperin at TIME. CNN's Candy Crowley has suggested that she will play an active role in the debate ("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?'") even though both candidates had expected to receive most of their questions from members of the audience. The campaigns want to "avoid a repeat of what occurred four years ago," says Halperin, when both the Obama and McCain campaigns complained that NBC's Tom Brokaw had "redirected the topics too severely from the audience queries and asked too many of his own questions, limiting the number of citizens who got a chance at the microphone."

The reaction: "That is bizarre that they are complaining," says Greta Van Susteren at her blog. "What are they both afraid of? A surprise question? A tough question? Or worse, a follow-up question that challenges them? That is exactly what the American people want in a debate and yes, Candy Crowley can do that." However, "if the questions are sharp and the candidates' answers on point Tuesday night, Crowley should get out of the way and let the format work," says Joan Walsh at Salon. "But if either candidate dodges the questions or dissembles, that's why Crowley is there — to follow up and get to the point. If she wasn’t supposed to play a role, why have her at all?" Crowley herself hasn't backed down, telling Politico, "I'm not a fly on the wall. We don't want the candidates to spout talking points. That doesn't help voters."

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