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Who asks the questions at tonight's presidential debate?

October 16, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Members of the audience walk to their seats before the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Members of the audience walk to their seats before the presidential debate… (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- New York is not a swing state. It's true blue, has been since 1984. And yet, the only one of the three presidential debates to feature questions from voters is to be held there this evening.

But there are swing voters there, and the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has again partnered with polling mainstay Gallup to identify a group of 80 individuals from the area around Hofstra University to pose questions of President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Gallup says it's using its standard telephone survey methods to choose individuals who have no presidential candidate preference or those who say they have a tentative favorite but could change their minds.

Hempstead, N.Y., part of Nassau County and about 25 miles east of midtown Manhattan, may seem an odd backdrop for a town hall debate considering the other two host cities: Denver and Boca Raton, Fla. The latter two are in states that have been bombarded with television ads all year and promise to remain hotly contested through election day.

DEBATE QUIZ: Who said it?

While New York voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, Nassau County produced an election result that mirrored the national outcome. Obama won 54% of the county’s votes, while 46% went for John McCain. Nationally, the split was 53-46% for the Democrat.

Ultimately, moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will choose from the questions submitted by the 80 voters Gallup produces. She's also indicated she will use her discretion to determine whether a follow-up question is merited, in keeping with the debate rules calling for a facilitated discussion.

Debate organizers said only Crowley will see the voters' questions ahead of time. They expect 15 to 20 questions to be asked during the 90-minute debate.

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