The 2012 presidential election season is now in full swing after Republicans and Democrats wrapped up their respective conventions.
The next opportunity that American citizens have to get a closer look at the candidates will be a series of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate to begin on October 3. With less than 60 days until election day, expect these debates to garner much media and voter attention.
2012 elections debate schedule
With what appears to be a very close race, the debates will play a central role in helping voters gain a more in depth understanding about the candidates and their positions on key issues including the economy and jobs.
The debates will also allow the candidates to go head to head in front of a live national television audience.
What follows are more specifics about the debates according to the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
Dates, locations and moderators for the presidential and vice presidential debates
First presidential debate:
Moderator: Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor of the PBS NewsHour
Wednesday, October 3, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Vice presidential debate:
Moderator: Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News
Thursday, October 11, Centre College, Danville, KY
Second presidential debate (town meeting):
Moderator: Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN's State of the Union
Tuesday, October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Third presidential debate:
Moderator: Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News and Moderator, Face the Nation
Monday, October 22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
New formats for presidential debates
"The new formats chosen for this year's debates are designed to focus big time blocks on major domestic and foreign topics. These journalists bring extensive experience to the job of moderating, and understand the importance of using the expanded time periods to maximum benefit," said the CPD in a statement on its website.
"We are grateful for their willingness to moderate, and confident that the public will learn more about the candidates and the issues as a result," the statement concluded.
Format for the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates
First presidential debate will focus on domestic policy
The first debate will focus on domestic policy. The debate will be divided into six time segments of about 15 minutes each. Topics will be chosen by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate.
The moderator will open each segment with a question. Then each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic, according to the CPD.
Vice presidential debate will cover domestic issues and foreign policy
The one and only vice presidential debate will cover both foreign and domestic topics. It will be divided into nine segments of about 10 minutes each.
The moderator will ask an opening question followed by a two minute response from each candidate. The moderator will use the remainder of the time in the segment for a discussion of the question.
Second presidential debate to feature "town meeting" format
The second presidential debate have a “town meeting” format. Citizens will ask questions of the candidates about foreign and domestic issues.
The candidates each will have two minutes to respond followed by an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion.
What makes this particular debate unique is that the town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization, according to information from the CPD.
Third presidential debate will focus on foreign policy
The format for the debate will be the same as first presidential debate and will focus on foreign policy.
All debates will take place from 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The candidates will not make opening statements.
However, each candidate will be allowed to present a two-minute closing statements in each of the debates.
In all the debates except town meeting, the CPD has made the recommendation that the candidates be seated at a table with the moderator.
Voter Education Program for 2012 presidential debates
The CPD is “undertaking an innovative internet-based voter education program that will encourage citizens to become familiar with the issues to be discussed in the debates,” according to information posted on the CPD website.
Additionally, the CPD will share citizens’ input with the debate moderators before the debates.
The CPD was established in 1987 and has has sponsored and produced all the presidential and vice presidential debates since then.
For more information about the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates as well as The Commission on Presidential Debates visit the CPD website.