Presidential, VP debate schedule, moderators announced — and the people picked are bit surprising

The picks for 2020 presidential and vice presidential debate moderators are out — and they include a picks from broadcast TV, cable and a newspaper, but steers clear of major anchors or names on a list suggested by a Trump surrogate.

Fox host Chris Wallace will moderate the first event between Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, scheduled for Sept. 29, 2020 at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland in Ohio.

Wallace will pick the major topics to be included in the televised debate, which will be broken into six segments of about 15 minutes each. Candidates will get one week advance notice of Wallace’s picks, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes major political debates each election.

Remaining time will be allotted for Wallace to fill with more in depth discussion and responses.

Next, C-SPAN’s Steve Scully will moderate an Oct. 15, 2020, debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. This debate will use a town hall format and include an audience of uncommitted voters from the area.

Candidates will have two minutes to respond to questions with up to a minute for expanded responses.

NBC News White House correspondent and “Weekend Today” co-anchor Kristen Welker has been tapped to moderate the final debate, scheduled for Oct. 22, 2020 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. This debate will use the same format as the first, according to the commission.

Sandwiched between the first two debates, USA Today’s Susan Page will moderate a debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. This debate is scheduled for Oct. 7, 2020, at The University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

All debates will air from 9 to 10:30 p.m. eastern time without commercial breaks. Major U.S. broadcast and cable networks will carry the debate in its entirety, with most provide pre and post commentary as well.

While topics will be announced in select debates, only the moderators will know the exact questions and moderators may also be tasked with “evening out” each candidate’s speaking time.

The choices are significant in that no major network evening news anchor was selected — typically at least one of the debates goes.

It’s also worth noting that the moderators are not from the list Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani submitted in August that included a variety of hosts and personalities from Fox’s conservative commentary and business channels as well as bigger names such as NBC’s Hoda Kotb, ABC’s David Muir and CBS’s Norah O’Donnell.

NBC’s Lester Holt and “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff were notably excluded from that list.

Wallace’s name was also not included on the list.

At the time, the commission said it would not modify its moderator selection process in response to the letter.

It seems, at least on the surface, that a decision to avoid anyone on the list could have been made.

That said, there is also the added issue of trying to produce debates amid a pandemic, which could create logistical, travel and other concerns — so it’s not necessarily accurate to compare this year to any previous one.

The selection of a Fox personality over any on CNN, MSNBC or the broadcast networks could be called into question — but it’s also worth noting Wallace has conducted a widely praised interview with Trump earlier this year.