What Candy Crowley told me about the debate on 10/5:
HH: Right now, I’m pleased to talk with CNN’s Candy Crowley, who will be of course moderating the second presidential debate that is coming up in two weeks. Candy, you must have watched with a very unique perspective on Wednesday night. Tell us about that.
CC: I did, except for you’re going to be so disappointed. I almost wasn’t paying any attention to Jim Lehrer, because I was writing notes like oh, there’s a hole, oh, that would be a good question, sort of looking at things they were dropping, what the candidates were saying in terms of follow up. So I wasn’t, you know, that focused on Jim. I mean, the one thing that you know, sort of in retrospect, remember I was in the hall, too, so it comes across very differently in the hall than it does on television. But I think, you know, in the end, what you want is for these two guys to exchange views, meaning this candidate and this candidate. That’s certainly what Jim tried to do, and I think most people that are looking at the debate now say that the President didn’t come to engage with Mitt Romney. He came to say his peace, and I think that’s why you’re now looking at these numbers that suggests that most people think the President lost.
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HH: Well, I thought Jim Lehrer did a fine job, and I thought he did a fine job, because the Presidential Debate Commission gave him a set of rules that he basically kept to and allowed the two candidates to exchange. And so I don’t get the criticism of him in some precincts, but I wonder if you are aware of the fact that the role of moderator maybe for, in a way unprecedented, has become politicized in the eyes of so many people watching.
CC: Do you know what’s funny is, and I realize that there were Republicans that criticized Jim as well, but I did see some of the Obama campaign’s complaining about the moderator and this and that. And is that any older than shooting the messenger?
HH: (laughing) No.
CC: Right? I mean, isn’t that kind of, that’s sort of…and you expect it. I’ve got to tell you, I’ll be you get a lot of it, I get a lot of it on Sunday shows. It’s just in, it’s just in the groundwater, and you know that if people see something they don’t like, if their candidate does something they don’t like, they don’t blame their candidate. They blame somebody else.
HH: Yeah, sure. If someone falls down, everyone looks for who tripped him.
HH: And that’s the standard. Now, but is anyone trying to work you from either side? Team Romney, Team Obama trying to work Candy Crowley as she gets closer to the big day?
CC: No, no, not at all. I mean, I’ll tell you, I don’t lack for suggestions coming into my email, but if they’re from the Romney campaign or the Obama campaign, they’re carefully disguised. So I am getting, you know, on average, about 200 suggestions a day from people going okay, you’re doing the next debate, and I’d like to suggest that you ask this or that or the other thing. So I’m getting lots of incoming, but if it’s from either campaign, it’s disguised as John Q. Public.
HH: Now about the, I want to come to what you’re doing on State Of The Union this weekend, but one more debate related question. When it comes to picking the people for the town hall interlocutor job, who’s doing that? How’s that actually happening?
CC: Gallup. Gallup is identifying undecided voters.
HH: So it’s all going to be undecided voters without prescreening of their questions?
CC: Well, no. I’m going to…I will get, they’ll do some thinking about what they want their questions to be, submit several of them, and I will ultimately decide who gets called on.
CC: So I know what their questions are going to be.
HH: Okay, perfect. So you get to make sure that the flow, I’ve done that drill before where you want to make sure you don’t get eight questions about topic A…
HH: I got it.
CC: Well, not only that, you don’t want to get eight questions…if you have people who are undecided, that’s great, and you’re sure they are. But you don’t want to get eight questions that are sort of skewed toward their doubts about Mitt Romney, and one that’s skewed toward doubts about Barack Obama. You want that to be even. So…
HH: Well, I won’t try and lobby you on air, except to say Fast & Furious, Fast & Furious, Fast & Furious. But anyway…