Presidential debates scheduled for Boston, St. Louis and Winston-Salem
By Beth Fouhy/CNN
January 6, 2000
Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EST (2120 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Officials of the Commission on Presidential Debates
announced Thursday the sites for three late-election-season presidential debates, as well as the site for one vice-presidential debate, and released a new set of requirements for candidates participating in those debates.
Commission Co-Chairmen Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf and Executive Director Janet Brown said the three presidential debates would be held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston; Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Washington University in St. Louis. The debates will take place October 3, 11 and 17, respectively.
The vice presidential debate will take place October 5 at Centre
College in Danville, Kentucky.
The commission has also established new criteria for participation in the
debates. This year, the commission will rely on a simple set of "objective
criteria" requiring candidates to benefit from at least 15 percent support in five national polls one week before the first debate in order to participate.
The same polling test will be repeated before each subsequent debate.
The new criteria will be crucial in determining whether the Reform Party
candidate gets a seat at each of the debates with the Republican and Democratic nominees.
In a press release, the commission described its process to devise the criteria as strictly objective and nonpartisan. The requirements were drafted, the panel said, to "identify those candidates who have achieved a level of electoral support such that they realistically are considered to be among the principal rivals for the presidency."
In 1996, the commission said, some 100 individuals were declared presidential candidates, excluding members of both major parties. The new criteria, the press release intimated, represented a fair method of weeding through the field to determine which of the candidates stood a reasonable chance of the winning the White House in 2000.
But Russ Verney, the former head of the Reform Party, Thursday blasted the Commission on Presidential Debates as "an absolute fraud ... designed to insure that Republicans and Democrats never have to share the stage with a candidate who wants to talk about the real issues."
Verney predicted the commission would eventually rule that the Reform
Party candidate "has no realistic chance of winning," and exclude the candidate
from the debates. "The public lives off images," Verney said. And any candidate who is not on the stage for any of these planned debates, Verney intimated, would not be regarded as a viable candidate.
In 1992, Reform Party candidate Ross Perot participated in the
presidential debates and went on to garner 19 percent of the popular vote in
the general election. But in 1996, based on a complex set of subjective criteria, the commission barred Perot from participating. Perot blamed his
poor showing that year -- 9 percent of the vote -- in part on his exclusion from the commission's debates and filed an unsuccessful suit against the panel.
Former GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan jumped to the Reform Party
late last year in part to secure a spot in the nationally televised presidential debates, should he become that party's nominee. New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump is also mulling a Reform Party bid.