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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Presidential debates scheduled for Jan. 23 & 24

The group that produced last year's gubernatorial and U.S. Senate debates announced plans this morning for televised presidential debates on Jan. 23 for Republicans and Jan 24 for Democrats.

Three major candidates for both parties (Giuliani, McCain and Romney / Clinton, Edwards and Obama) have already been invited. Any candidate who polls at least 10 percent in a Mason-Dixon survey can participate. That provision is designed to prevent a Max Linn-like situation. Linn successfully inserted himself into a debate in Tampa between Jim Davis and Charlie Crist, creating a bit of a stir.

The one-hour debates will be shown live and moderated by a "marque" broadcast journalist, with questions coming from a panel of other reporters. A location has not been set, but it will be a college campus.

Decision 2008: Before You Vote is being arranged by Leadership Florida, the Florida Press Association and Florida Public Broadcasting Service. Organizers dismissed talk that candidates would shy away because of possible party penalties related to Florida moving up its primary to Jan. 29.

"We full expect given the critical importance that Florida played in 2004 and 2000 in presidential debates ... that candidates for both parties will wish to participate," said Jeff Bartel, chairman of Leadership Florida.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 2:25pm]


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