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September 20, 2017

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Format changes proposed in vital US presidential debate

HEMPSTEAD, New York -- The "town hall" meeting that pits President Barack Obama against Mitt Romney on Tuesday could well be the most engaging of their debates — provided the moderator takes control as she has pledged.

CNN's Candy Crowley will be in the hot seat for the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York in front of about 80 undecided likely voters selected by polling group Gallup.

The format first used 20 years ago presents the clearest chance of the three showdowns for Obama and Romney to address American voters face-to-face as they ask questions about domestic and foreign policy.

The two campaigns, however, apparently have agreed in a memo to try and limit the role of Crowley at the debate, fearful that she might use the opportunity to steer audience members' questions or veer off-topic.

"In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic," according to a copy of the memo obtained by TIME magazine and posted in part on its website Sunday.

"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," except to acknowledge questioners, enforce time limits or invite responses.

There is no evidence Crowley is part of the agreement, and she has stressed her intent to broaden out the discussion if and when needed.

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