CNN Gears Up for First Presidential Debate


CNN Tuesday detailed its ambitious plans for coverage of the first presidential debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain on Friday, Sept. 26 from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.

The daylong programming lineup will be carried in high definition across all the networks over-the-air and online platforms, network officials said.

Anchors Wolf Blitzer, Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper will preside over coverage from the CNN Election Center in New York. The day’s coverage will kick off with special debate-focused editions of The Situation Room from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, followed by Lou Dobbs Tonight from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET and Campbell Brown: Election Center from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET. The first presidential debate will air from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET, with a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360° following from 10:30 p.m. to midnight ET which will provide analysis and commentary on the evening’s developments. 

Chief national correspondent John King will be in the studio with the “Magic Wall” to provide in-depth analysis on demographic and delegate data.  As the first presidential debate will be focused on foreign affairs, chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Baghdad-based correspondent Michael Ware will contribute their analysis from a global perspective.

Throughout the special coverage, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, senior political analyst David Gergen and senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin will be on hand to offer their analysis. Additionally, CNN political contributors Paul Begala, Bill Bennett, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Roland Martin and Leslie Sanchez will provide insight from their perspectives across the ideological spectrum.

CNN correspondents Dana Bash, Candy Crowley, Ed Henry, Suzanne Malveaux, Jessica Yellin and senior political analyst Bill Schneider will be live on location at the debate site with the CNN Election Express in Oxford, Miss.  The Election Express will serve not only as an on-the-ground broadcast location, but also as a production facility and newsroom for the CNN political unit.

Also, CNN special correspondent Soledad O’Brien will moderate a focus group in Columbus, Ohio.  The group will be comprised of a selection of voters from the hotly contested state.  During the debate, the participants will operate electronic dial testers that will allow television viewers to see the group’s reactions in real time.  In addition, viewers watching the broadcast in high-definition will see exclusive editorial information and commentary appearing on the side panels of their screens throughout the debate.

The first presidential debate will air live on CNN and will simulcast on CNN International, CNN en Español and CNN Airport Network. The debate will also stream live on Live, the network’s multistream, live video news service. On Saturday, Sept. 27, the debate will replay on CNN at midnight and 3 a.m. ET and on CNN International at 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET.