Inside CNN’s Presidential Debate: How it will work

Inside CNN's Presidential Debate: How it will work

Inside CNN’s Presidential Debate: A Comprehensive Outline of the Format, Rules, and Expectations

The Presidential Debate organized by CNN is a much-anticipated event in the American political calendar. This high-stakes

televised confrontation

between two or more contenders vying for the highest office in the land is meticulously planned, with a well-defined format, rules, and expectations designed to elicit insightful responses from candidates and engage the viewership.


CNN’s Presidential Debate typically follows a two-night, three-hour format, with each evening featuring ten candidates who qualify based on polling and fundraising thresholds. The debates are structured into fifteen to twenty-minute segments for each candidate, where they engage in direct conversation with one another, responding to moderators’ questions and each other’s statements.


The rules governing CNN’s Presidential Debate are established to ensure fairness, decorum, and order. Candidates agree to follow guidelines regarding time limits, respect for fellow participants, and factual accuracy. They are also prohibited from using offensive language or attacking each other’s personal character. Violations may result in a warning or time penalty.


The expectations for CNN’s Presidential Debate are high, with the event serving as a significant opportunity for candidates to showcase their policy expertise, communication skills, and ability to connect with voters. In an era of polarized politics and heightened media scrutiny, the debate stage presents a crucial platform for candidates to distinguish themselves from their opponents and shape public opinion. As such, each candidate’s performance is closely scrutinized, and the debates often prove pivotal in the race for the presidency.

Inside CNN

CNN: A Leading News Organization and the Presidential Debates

CNN, the Cable News Network, has been a significant player in the world of news broadcasting since its inception in 1980. It has consistently ranked among the top networks for providing comprehensive and timely coverage of various local, national, and international events. However, one area where CNN truly shines is its

coverage of the Presidential Debates

. These debates are an integral part of

American politics,

serving as a platform for candidates to engage in substantive discussions on key issues, exchange ideas, and persuade voters ahead of Election Day.

The importance and significance of the Presidential Debates can be traced back to their inception in 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off in the first-ever televised debate. Since then, debates have become a crucial component of election campaigns, offering voters an unfiltered look at candidates’ positions and demeanor.

CNN’s partnership

with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) dates back to 1992, making it one of the longest-standing media partners. This unique arrangement enables CNN to provide extensive coverage of the debates, ensuring that viewers have access to real-time analysis and insights from experts and pundits.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1987 by the Democratic and Republican parties, has played an integral role in shaping the presidential debate process in the United States. The CPD’s


is to ensure that debates, as a tool, are used effectively to inform voters and enhance their understanding of the issues and the choices they face. The CPD’s


came about following the landmark link in 1987, which established the CPD as the sole sponsor of general election presidential and vice presidential debates. This marked a departure from previous ad-hoc arrangements that had led to inconsistencies in debate formats and scheduling.


The CPD’s first presidential debate took place on September 26, 1988, between then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Since then, the CPD has produced all but one presidential debate cycle – the 2000 debates were co-produced by the CPD and the League of Women Voters due to a legal dispute between the parties over debate format. The CPD’s role expanded in 1992, when it began co-producing vice presidential debates as well.


The CPD’s role extends beyond simply organizing and facilitating the debates. It also determines debate formats, invites the candidates, sets debate rules, and appoints moderators. The CPD’s partnership with

media organizations

(such as NBC, ABC, CBS, and PBS in the past) is essential for producing and broadcasting the debates. More recently,


(in collaboration with the other major networks) has played a pivotal role in hosting and producing presidential and vice presidential debates. This partnership ensures that debates reach millions of viewers across the country.

Past Presidential Debates Produced by the CPD

Election CyclePresidential DebatesVice Presidential Debates
19883 debates1 debate
19923 debates1 debate
19963 debates1 debate
2000(co-produced with the League of Women Voters)3 debates1 debate
20043 debates1 debate
20083 debates1 debate
20123 debates1 debate
20163 debates1 debate
20203 debates1 debate

Throughout its history, the CPD has strived to maintain a fair and impartial approach to managing debates while adapting to changing political landscapes and technological advancements. The organization’s role as the sole sponsor of presidential and vice presidential debates is a testament to its commitment to promoting informed citizenry and fostering productive public discourse.

Inside CNN

I Debate Format: Multiple Parts, Each with Distinctive Characteristics

The debate format in political campaigns is a critical component of the election process, providing voters with an opportunity to observe and compare candidates’ policies, beliefs, and rhetoric. One debate format consists of multiple parts, each with distinctive characteristics that contribute uniquely to the overall dynamic. Let’s explore these segments:

Opening Statements

Opening statements are the initial remarks made by each candidate at the beginning of a debate. These statements are essential in setting the tone and agenda for the debate, allowing candidates to introduce themselves, outline their key issues, and connect with voters. The length of opening statements varies depending on the debate rules but typically lasts between 1-3 minutes per candidate.

Directed Discussions

Directed discussions

Description of the moderated segment focusing on specific topics

During the moderated segment, the moderator facilitates a discussion on predetermined topics, giving each candidate equal time to respond. These topics are often based on current issues and voter concerns. The moderator’s role is crucial in managing the discussion and ensuring that each candidate adheres to the rules, allowing for a productive and informative exchange.

Role of the moderator in managing the discussion and enforcing rules

The moderator’s role

a. Facilitating a fair and impartial discussion

The moderator’s primary responsibility is to facilitate a fair and impartial discussion, allowing each candidate an equal opportunity to present their positions on the topics at hand. They must remain neutral, refrain from taking sides or expressing personal opinions and ensure that the debate stays focused on the issues.

b. Enforcing rules

The moderator is also responsible for enforcing the rules of the debate, such as time limits, adherence to topic areas, and audience etiquette. By maintaining order and structure, they enable a productive and meaningful exchange between the candidates.

Unanswered Questions

Unanswered questions

Explanation of how audience members submit questions to be considered by the moderator

During a debate, audience members can submit questions

a. In writing

through the event organizers or contact platforms beforehand, or

b. Verbally during the live broadcast

during designated periods. These questions are then reviewed by the moderator to determine their relevance and suitability for the debate.

Importance and impact of unanswered questions on the debate and campaign narrative

Unanswered questions can significantly impact the outcome of a debate and the broader campaign narrative. Candidates may be criticized for failing to address certain issues, or voters may perceive a lack of transparency if their questions go unanswered. Conversely, addressing key concerns can help candidates gain support and bolster their positions.

Lightning Round or Rapid Response Segment

Lightning round or rapid response segment

Description of this quick-paced segment where candidates are given short time to respond to each other’s statements

This quick-paced segment

a. Allows candidates to respond directly to each other’s statements

on various topics or issues, often with limited response time – typically 30-60 seconds.

Importance and potential impact of this segment on the debate dynamic

The lightning round

a. Provides a unique opportunity to assess candidates’ quick thinking and adaptability under pressure

b. Can lead to memorable moments or gaffes, shaping public perception of the candidates.

E. Closing Statements

Closing statements

Explanation of the importance of closing statements to leave a lasting impression on voters

Finally, closing statements

a. Offer candidates an opportunity to summarize their key points and leave a lasting impression on voters

b. Can help solidify support or sway undecided voters, making them an essential part of the debate strategy.

Length and structure of closing statements

Closing statements typically last between 1-3 minutes, providing candidates with ample time to emphasize their strengths and connect with voters on an emotional level before the debate concludes.

In conclusion

Each segment in a multiple-part debate format plays a crucial role in shaping the narrative and dynamic of the election campaign. From opening statements that set the tone to closing statements that leave a lasting impression, each component offers valuable insights into the candidates’ character, policies, and readiness for office.

Inside CNN

Debate Rules: Guidelines for Participants

Description of the General Rules: In any formal debate, there are established rules that participants must abide by to ensure a fair and productive discussion. One such rule is adhering to time limits per answer. This is crucial, as it prevents speakers from monopolizing the conversation and allows each participant an equal opportunity to present their arguments. Another important general rule is respecting decorum. This involves maintaining a professional demeanor and refraining from using derogatory language or personal attacks against one’s opponent.

Specific Rules:

BInterruptions: A common issue in debates is the question of when and how often one can interrupt their opponent. Generally, interruptions are discouraged as they can derail the flow of the discussion. However, there may be instances where an interruption is warranted if new information comes to light that directly relates to the ongoing debate. In such cases, it’s essential to request permission from the moderator before interrupting.


Another important rule is fact-checking. Debaters are expected to present accurate information during the debate. If a participant makes a factual error, their opponent has the right to correct them. It’s essential to do this respectfully and in a way that adds value to the discussion rather than being confrontational.

BAudience Interaction:

The role of the audience in a debate can vary depending on the specific event’s rules. Generally, audiences are encouraged to remain quiet during the debate itself to minimize distractions. However, there may be opportunities for audience questions or interactions at designated points in the event. It’s essential to follow any specific rules regarding audience interaction and remember that respectful behavior is expected from everyone involved, including the audience.

Consequences of Violating Debate Rules:

Penalties for violating debate rules can range from warnings to disqualification, depending on the severity of the infraction. For minor rule breaches like going over time or a brief interruption without permission, the moderator may issue a warning. Continued violations could result in points being deducted or other sanctions imposed by the debate committee or organizers. In more serious cases, such as personal attacks or flagrant rule violations, a debater may be disqualified from the event entirely.

Inside CNN

CNN’s Role in Debate Coverage:
CNN has been a leading player in providing comprehensive and engaging coverage of presidential debates. During the live broadcast, CNN offers

expert analysis

from a team of political pundits and journalists. These commentators provide valuable insights into the debates, dissecting the candidates’ performances, analyzing their body language, and evaluating their policy proposals.

Description of how CNN covers the debate live:

CNN’s coverage goes beyond just showing the debate on television. They offer

real-time interactions

with social media and audience engagement during the debate. CNN invites viewers to join the conversation through Twitter using a dedicated hashtag, allowing for a two-way dialogue between the viewers and the commentators.

Importance of CNN’s coverage:

The importance of CNN’s coverage extends beyond just providing a platform for expert analysis and audience engagement. CNN also plays a critical role in

providing context



, and offering

additional insights

for viewers. Their team of journalists work tirelessly to fact-check the debates in real-time, ensuring that viewers are not misled by false claims or misinformation. CNN’s comprehensive coverage allows viewers to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and the candidates, making the debates more informative and engaging for them.

Inside CNN

VI. Preparation and Expectations: What Candidates Need to Succeed in the Debate

The debate stage is a crucial platform for candidates to showcase their qualifications, policies, and charisma to millions of viewers. In order to make the most of this opportunity and increase the chances of a successful performance, candidates must meticulously prepare for the event. Let’s discuss some key strategies that can help contenders excel in debates:

Preparing for Attacks

First and foremost, candidates should anticipate potential attacks from their opponents. This means not only being familiar with the opposition’s stance on key issues but also understanding their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. By preparing responses that demonstrate a clear, compelling contrast between their own record and their opponent’s, candidates can effectively deflect attacks while also demonstrating their expertise and command of the issues.

Delivering Compelling Answers

Delivering compelling answers is another essential strategy for success in debates. Candidates should practice their responses to common questions, ensuring that they are concise, clear, and engaging. This means focusing on key messages that resonate with voters, and delivering them in a confident, authentic manner. Practicing these responses with advisors, supporters, or even in front of mirrors can help candidates refine their messaging and delivery.

Connecting with Voters

Finally, candidates must remember that debates are not just about winning over the minds of other contenders, but also about connecting with voters. This means being authentic, personable, and relatable in their responses. By focusing on the concerns and interests of the viewing audience, candidates can build a rapport with voters that goes beyond the specifics of the debate format.

Importance of Debates in Shaping the Campaign Narrative

The importance of debates in shaping the campaign narrative cannot be overstated. A strong debate performance can help solidify a candidate’s frontrunner status, while a weak one can leave lasting damage to their campaign. With the potential outcomes of debates often influencing media coverage, donor support, and voter perceptions, it is essential that candidates approach these events with the seriousness and preparation they deserve.

Potential Outcomes

Some possible outcomes of a successful debate performance include increased media attention, expanded donor base, and a surge in voter support. By demonstrating their expertise on key issues, their ability to connect with voters, and their resilience in the face of attacks, candidates can build momentum that carries them through the rest of the campaign season.

In Conclusion

By focusing on these key strategies, candidates can increase their chances of success in debates. Preparation is essential – anticipating attacks, delivering compelling answers, and connecting with voters are all crucial components of a strong debate performance. With the potential outcomes of debates often shaping the campaign narrative, it’s clear that candidates cannot afford to overlook their importance.

Inside CNN

V Conclusion:

The debate between the two major presidential candidates in the 2020 campaign cycle was a pivotal moment, not only in the election cycle but also in American politics as a whole. This three-hour face-off between the incumbent and the challenger, hosted by CNN in partnership with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), captured the attention of millions of viewers worldwide. The debate’s importance lies in its role in shaping public opinion and, ultimately, influencing election outcomes.

Recap of the Debate’s Importance:

The debate provided an opportunity for voters to evaluate the candidates’ positions, demeanor, and ability to handle pressure. It served as a benchmark for comparing the two leading contenders in the race for the White House. This public assessment of the candidates’ performance was particularly significant given that the election was taking place during a time of unprecedented challenges, including a global pandemic and economic uncertainty.

Impact on Election Outcomes:

The debate’s impact on the election outcome can be debated itself. However, it is clear that this event played a crucial role in setting the tone for the remaining days of the campaign. Post-debate polls and public sentiment analysis indicated shifts in voter preferences, underscoring the importance of this critical encounter between the two candidates.

Final Thoughts:

The unique partnership between CNN and the CPD in producing a fair and informative debate for American voters was an essential component of this pivotal moment. Their collaboration demonstrated a commitment to upholding the democratic process and providing voters with accurate, unbiased information. The debate’s success underscores the importance of media organizations and regulatory bodies working together to ensure that the public is well-informed during the election cycle.