Despite her more than 25 years in journalism, CNN’s chief political correspondent calls the time leading up to the event at New York’s Hofstra University “nerve-racking,” admitting, “I tell everybody, half-kiddingly, I wake up every morning nauseous.”
Crowley, 63, says she was “overwhelmed” and “excited” when she first learned earlier this summer that she was selected to moderate one of the three presidential debates. She was sworn to secrecy, but cops to sharing the big news with her grown kids before it was announced publicly: “I did tell my children. But I said, 'You can’t tweet this, you can’t tell any of your co-workers, you can’t do anything, and I’ve got to have that promise.’ ”
Nothing was leaked on Twitter, but Crowley was nervous about another dead giveaway. “I had a ridiculous smile on my face for a little while and I’m surprised people didn’t notice,” she says.
What many folks did take note of after the announcement was made was the fact that the Sunday morning show host would be the first woman in 20 years to moderate a debate between presidential candidates. Crowley says while at first she wasn’t aware of the significance of her selection, she has come to appreciate what her selection might mean for females. “Whether it was the grocery store or the coffee shop, there were so many people — men and women, by the way — [who] came up to me and would ... hug me and go, ‘I’m so excited a woman’s going to do this.’ ”
But former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson, the last woman to moderate a presidential debate, expressed disappointment that Crowley was assigned to a town hall-style debate. The format allows for follow-up questions from the moderator, but many questions will come from audience members.
Simpson said with a chuckle last month on New York’s WNYC radio station, “If I were Candy, I think I’d go rogue … If some woman doesn’t ask a question about reproductive rights, I think I would go ahead and violate the rules and ask the question.”
Calling Simpson a good friend, a laughing Crowley tells ITK, “Anybody that knows me knows there’s always a chance I’ll go rogue. That’s kind of the definition of me … As I say, rogue is kind of my middle name, but I don’t think anybody should worry that I’ll be doing anything crazy.”
She says her biggest fear is failing to ask an obvious question: “I want voters, men and women, to walk away from watching this debate without throwing things at their television screen because, you know, I missed something completely or there should’ve been a great follow-up and somehow I didn’t pick up on it.”
For now, Crowley's keeping her blue cards (and her skim cappuccinos) close at hand as she gears up for one of the biggest moments of her career, saying, “I want this to be a debate where people come away understanding these two men better, learning something new — you know, I’d love a headline or two — and moving this whole process forward. That’s what I want.”