Martha Raddatz introducing the vice-presidential debate. (Photo : Reuters)
While Jim Lehrer was roundly panned for his meek moderation of the first presidential debate, Martha Raddatz is receiving heavy praise for staying in control of the conversation during her hosting of the vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
"Martha Raddatz of ABC News didn't ask puffy questions like Jim Lehrer did at the presidential debate. Or let the candidates get away with vague non-answers, as Jim Lehrer did," wrote The New York Times editorial page.
"Ms. Raddatz showed a consistent willingness to call the candidates on their "malarkey," as the Vice President put it," The Times continues. "When Mr. Ryan said he could cut taxes without reducing the deficit by eliminating loopholes, but didn't actually mention which loopholes, she drew attention to his evasiveness: 'No specifics, again.'"
The Washington Post's Dan Zak saw Raddatz as a necessary disciplinarian. "A pro debated a novice Thursday night on national television, and both men were schooled by the moderator across the table," he wrote.
"Raddatz held firm control of the debate without squelching dialogue or spontaneity. She pushed the men for "specific plans"; she declared, 'We're gonna move on' when answers meandered; and she silenced both debaters with the teacherly interjection of 'Gentlemen,'" he continued.
Newsday said Raddatz likely learned from Lehrer's mistakes. "Martha Raddatz is no Jim Lehrer," said Alvin Bessent.
"He was savaged as a moderator for losing control of the presidential debate last week. Raddatz clearly got the message."
CNN's Soledad O'Brien called Raddatz "absolutely masterful."
The Huffington Post praised her deft maneuvering of the discussion. "Whereas Lehrer appeared to have trouble corralling Obama and Romney, Raddatz managed to cut them off repeatedly. "Let's move to Iran," she said, and they did. When Biden said Ryan was talking "a bunch of stuff," she asked, "What does that mean, 'a bunch of stuff?'"
Journalists like Raddatz, senior foreign correspondent for ABC News, are keenly aware of public opinion and media scrutiny. Lehrer's poor performance in the first debate gave her an opportunity to revise her approach to one better suited to the kind of discussion required by viewers, and she succeeded.
It's likely that the moderator of the second presidential debate, Candy Crowley, watched Raddatz closely. Given the positive reception, look for Crowley to be equally incisive in her questioning of President Obama and Mitt Romney on Tuesday.
With Obama attempting to overwrite his lackluster responses in the first debate, and Romney trying to continue his momentum in the polls, the second presidential debate should be a rousing and feisty series of attacks and parries.
It remains to be seen whether Crowley can be as effective as Raddatz in making the candidates actually say what they mean.
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