Commission on Presidential Debates Announces Formats for 2004 Debates

Jun 17, 2004

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) today announced formats for its 2004 debates. Dates and sites for these debates were announced on November 6, 2003 as follows:

First presidential debate:

Thursday, September, 30, 2004
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL

Vice presidential debate:

Tuesday, October 5, 2004
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH

Second presidential debate:

Friday, October 8, 2004
Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, MO

Third presidential debate:

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ


  • The candidates will be seated at a table with the moderator in the first and third presidential debates and in the vice presidential debate.
  • The second presidential debate will use the town meeting format in which undecided voters, selected by the Gallup Organization, will question the candidates.
  • Each debate will last for ninety minutes, start at 9:00 p.m. ET, and take place before a live audience.
  • The first presidential debate will focus primarily on domestic policy, and the third presidential debate will focus primarily on foreign policy. The town meeting debate and the vice presidential debate will be open to all topics.


  • Each debate will have a different single moderator to be selected by the CPD. The four moderators will be announced no later than September 10.
  • The moderators job in the first and third presidential debates and the vice presidential debate will be to introduce and change topics, to ensure that the participants have equal time, and to encourage some direct exchange among the candidates. The moderators will select all topics and questions.
  • In the town meeting debate, the town meeting participants will pose their questions to the candidates. The town meeting participants will review their questions with the moderator before the debate for the sole purpose of avoiding duplicate questions.
  • The moderators will have discretion to ask follow-up questions in all debates.

Participation in the debates sponsored by the CPD is subject to the application of the CPD’s Non-partisan Candidate Selection Criteria for 2004, which were issued on September 24, 2003. They are:

  • Eligibility under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which requires that a candidate be at least 35 years of age, a natural born citizen of the United States, and a resident of the United States for fourteen years;
  • Appearance on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2004 general election; and
  • Fifteen percent support of the national electorate as determined by the average of five national public opinion polls taken as close to the first debate as practicable. The polls to be used will be announced no later than September 10.

The candidate selection criteria will be applied before each debate. If a presidential candidate is eligible for the first presidential debate, his or her running mate will automatically be included in the vice presidential debate.

Coverage of the debates will be provided by members of the White House pool who drew lots to determine the following assignments:

First presidential debate: Fox
Vice presidential debate: ABC
Second presidential debate: NBC

Pool coverage for the third presidential debate has not yet been determined.

The CPD is the non-partisan, non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that has sponsored all general election presidential debates since 1987.