Bloomberg News

Half of First Presidential Debate to Focus on Economic Issues

September 20, 2012

Three of the six segments of the first debate between Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama will focus on the economy, moderator Jim Lehrer announced yesterday.

The debate, scheduled for Oct. 3 at the University of Denver in Colorado, will also address health care, governing and the role of government, said Lehrer, who is moderating the first of three exchanges between the candidates sponsored by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

The 90-minute debate will be broken up into six 15-minute segments, and Lehrer said the topics could change because of news developments.

Four years ago, the second of the three debates between Obama and Republican nominee Senator John McCain of Arizona drew the largest audience, 63.2 million, according to Nielsen. The first debate drew the smallest audience, 52.4 million. The vice- presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin outdrew the presidential nominees, attracting a record 69.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Even so, the first debate “has greater potential to benefit the challenger than the incumbent because it places both on equal footing and gives the challenger a chance to demonstrate competence,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.


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