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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Presidential Debate Dates

Q: When is the first real debate between John McCain and Barack Obama? I’m really looking forward to it.

A: Not until Sept. 26, as things stand. But McCain wants more debates starting sooner and Obama has said he’s open to the idea. So far the two haven’t agreed on any dates, though.


When is the first real debate between John McCain and Barack Obama? I’m really looking forward to it.


There are three 90-minute debates scheduled by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, of which the first is Sept. 26 at the University of Mississippi. Both candidates are invited, and if recent history is any guide, they will accept after some haggling over formats and ground rules.

In addition, on June 4 McCain called for 10 additional debates in the form of freewheeling, joint "town hall meetings" to be held once a week starting June 11 or 12. Obama said on June 10 that his aides were in negotiations with the McCain camp and that "what we’ve said is we are happy to do more than the three typical presidential debates in the fall," with additional debates in what he called "a mix of formats." But after more than a month, there’s no sign of an agreement.

We asked both the McCain and Obama campaigns what is happening. Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said his side had offered a total of five debates, two in addition to the three commission-sanctioned events. He said the McCain side rejected that idea. "Given what we have in the weeks down the road, we’ll see what the schedule dictates," Vietor said. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said he could offer "no comment on debates," but added, "We are still hoping Obama [will] agree to appear at some town hall meetings with Sen. McCain."

As things stand, then, the three Obama-McCain debates are scheduled as follows:

  • Friday, Sept. 26
    University of Mississippi, Oxford, Miss.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 7
    Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Wednesday, Oct.15
    Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

In addition, the commission has scheduled a debate between the Democratic and Republican vice presidential candidates for Thursday, Oct. 2 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

–Brooks Jackson


"Commission on Presidential Debates Announces Sites, Dates, Formats and Candidate Selection Criteria for 2008 General Election," news release. Commission on Presidential Debates, 19 Nov 2007.