The negotiation work of two veteran Washington lawyers became a key part of the discussion about tonight’s second presidential debate, when the once secret agreement between the candidates was leaked to Time magazine.
Benjamin Ginsberg, a partner at Patton Boggs who is representing Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign, and Bob Bauer, former White House counsel for President Barack Obama who is represented Obama's campaign, negotiated and signed the “Memorandum of Understanding” that lays out rules for the debates.
The deal was signed on October 3, the day of the first presidential debate in Denver, according to Mark Halperin, the senior political analyst for Time. The full agreement was published on Time's site.
The rules quickly circulated throughout the online media Tuesday before the “town meeting” style debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., where an audience full of undecided voters will ask questions about foreign and domestic issues and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley will moderate.
Those secret rules became somewhat controversial this week when both Obama and Romney’s campaigns expressed concern over the role Crowley will play tonight with the relative unpredictability of a live audience. The candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants were selected by the Gallup Organization.
The document states that Crowley has a limited role. “In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic.… The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.”
But Crowley is not a party to the agreement, and has said that there would be time for her to ask follow-up questions.
Among the other highlights of the deal:
- The candidates cannot use props, notes, charts, diagrams, portable electronic devices or cite a specific person in the debate audience (other than family members), or else the moderator must interrupt and explain that the candidate has violated the rules.
- The candidates may not ask each other direct questions.
- Each candidate may use his own makeup person, and adequate facilities will be provided at the debate site for makeup.