The Commission on Presidential Debates has announced the formats for the 2012 presidential debates, and there's a new feature designed to ensure the focus doesn't stray from the most important issues facing the nation in Election 2012.
- Past Presidential Debate Moderators
- When Are Vice Presidential Candidates Chosen?
- Women Vice Presidential Nominees
The first and third presidential debates, each running 90 minutes on primetime television, will be divided into six 15-minute segments. Each segment will allow Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama focus on specific topics to be selected by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate.
Commission leaders told CBS News that the topics for each segment, or "pod," will be announced in September and are expected to address topics including unemployment, education and the federal budget deficit.
"We're revealing that in advance, so the candidates know they're going to have to be prepared to do 15 minutes of heavy discussion on a certain topic with the moderator," commission co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told CBS News. "In many ways, it helps the candidates. They're not going to be asked who the president of Kyrgyzstan is or whether they wear [Jockey underwear]."
The first presidential debate of 2012 will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the University of Denver in Denver, Colo. The Commission on Presidential Debates has announced that the first debate will deal with domestic issues.
The third and final presidential debate of 2012 will be held on Monday, Oct. 22, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. The commission has announced that the final debate will deal with foreign policy.
"There are serious issues facing this country and the public has the right to expect a serious examination of those issues during this fall's debates. The CPD believes this can be accomplished best by focusing big time blocks on major domestic and foreign topics," the commission said in a written statement announcing the formats.
In between those two debates will be a town-hall style debate on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
"The debates are the most widely-watched political programs of any kind," the commission said. "These format changes are designed to promote substantive dialogue before, during and between the debates about the major issues of the day. They will permit citizens and candidates to come prepared for a series of voter education forums that inform and engage the public."
[Photo: Jim Lehrer of PBS has moderated numerous presidential debates. Getty Images]