Presidential Debate At Hofstra: Moderator, Format & Other Details

presidential debate

The first 2016 presidential debate at Hofstra University is a little more than three weeks away, which means the showdown between Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, a potential third-party candidate, though unlikely, is just around the corner.

Hofstra, which hosted presidential debates in 2008 and 2012, was a late selection for the inaugural presidential debate this year. The Commission on Presidential Debates was left to scramble in July when Wright State University backed out, citing rising costs and a “commitment to safety.”

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Named an alternate location more than a year ago, Hofstra answered the commission’s call and will now become the first-ever university to host three consecutive presidential debates in as many cycles. Perhaps the only downside for Hofstra is the 10,000-student university basically had a two-month window to plan an all-encompassing event.

When the change of venues was announced, Hofstra said it anticipated a “slight uptick” from its 2012 debate budget, which was between $4 and $5 million.

“Because of our experiences in 2008 and 2012, we well understand what is required of us, and we are confident in our ability to execute an excellent debate in conjunction with the CPD,” Hofstra said in a statement at the time.

Now that we’ve reached September, the committee has released further details on the debate, including who’d serve as moderator and the event’s format.

Here’s what we know about the 2016 Presidential Debate at Hofstra University:


NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt will moderate the Sept. 26 debate at Hofstra. Holt took over the prestigious anchor chair following Brian Williams’ very public fall from grace earlier this year, punctuated by a six-month suspension punishing the longtime newsman for embellished remarks dating back to his reporting in Iraq. Holt’s telecast has consistently topped competing news programs on ABC and CBS, and in June, was awarded the Edward R. Murrow award for best Newscast.


The commission said the debate would be divided into six 15-minute segments focusing on significant political issues. These so-called “major topics” are to be selected by the moderator and announced at least a week prior to the debate. It’s unclear what scale is used to determine which issues take prominence.

Hofstra’s 2012 presidential debate was a more relaxed town hall debate that gave us Mitt Romney’s famous “binders full of women” comment and saw a more energized Barack Obama after an uninspiring appearance during the competitors’ first clash.


Democrat Hillary Clinton will take on Republican Donald Trump during the debate but Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is hoping a late surge in public support can propel him to the debate stage. But due to the commission’s 15-percent polling prerequisite, it’s unlikely Johnson, who is currently polling at around 10 percent, will meet the threshold. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who was arrested at the 2012 Hofstra debate as she protested the commission’s polling requirements, is currently hovering around 4 percent. The one thing the two long-shot third-party candidates have going for them is public support. According to a Morning Consult survey, 52 percent of those polled said Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, should be included in the presidential debate, while 47-percent want Stein to join the stage.


All debates will take place from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET. Advice: Grab some coffee, or something stronger.


Vice presidential debate:
Tuesday, October 4, Longwood University

Second presidential debate (town meeting):
Sunday, October 9, Washington University in St. Louis

Third presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 19, University of Nevada, Las Vegas