ABC This Week Martha Raddatz Interview: Do Presidential Debates Really Matter

Following Martha Raddatz's turn as the moderator at the vice presidential debate, the ABC News' Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent has become a new beacon of what a moderating job done well really looks like. In the combative debate between Congressman Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden, Raddatz kept the two candidates in check; pressing them to explain themselves, keeping them on topic, and avoiding too many major moments of unintelligible cross-talk. The Saturday Night Live VP debate pardoy put it best with the Martha Raddatz character saying, "Do I look like Jim Lehrer? Then don't f*ck me like Jim Lehrer." 

On Sunday morning, Raddatz sat down with the round table on This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss the question of whether or not debates can change the course of an election. Also at the table were morning moderator Jake Tapper, historian Richard Norton Smith, former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Rep. Christopher Dodd, George F. Will, and Democratic political strategist Donna Brazille. 

The table spoke about the way that debates have become steadfastly linked with popular culture particularly on display in commentary on shows like Saturday Night Live. "Saturday Night Live has become our water cooler," Smith said. "Debates over time have become an inseparable part of pop culture." Constant commentary from social media also increases this pop culture link. As the table brought up, Al Gore's aids actually made him watch spoofs of himself on Saturday Night Live so that Gore could see how he was perceived by the American public. 

Raddatz spoke to her experience at Thursday night's debate table speaking of the energy she felt at the table and the pressure the candidates are under to get out as much information as possible in the 90-minute time span. "There were times sitting at that table I could see both of saying 'what haven't I said.'" ... "It's fascinating to see them in that forum." 

Of the big caricatures the public took away from the evening, Raddatz replied, "I didn't see Paul Ryan drinking all that water, ever." Raddatz did speak to Biden's presence saying he was too big for the space and you could feel it. Raddatz also spoke to her surprise that Ryan did not interject more, following up with "that was clearly the strategy." 

When Raddatz was asked if debates in fact matter she replied,  "I think people have to remember, what you hear isn't necessarily going to happen ..." 

On Tuesday the second presidential debate will take place at 9:00 pm at Hofstra University. This next debate will be a town hall format.

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Elena Sheppard

Elena is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Mic. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Time Out New York, The New York Times Upfront, ABC News, and various travel publications. She is also a Princeton alum, a former Thailand resident, and a Brooklyn native.

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