Schieffer is host of CBS News' "Face the Nation" and the network's chief Washington correspondent. He moderates the presidential debate, Wednesday in Tempe, Arizona.
updated 10/13/2004 2:33:56 PM ET 2004-10-13T18:33:56

In an interview with MSNBC's Deborah Norville, CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, who is scheduled to moderate the third presidential debate in Tempe, Arizona Wednesday, says he can handle the pressure as a presidential debate moderator. He also discusses what he thinks each candidate must accomplish in the debates.

Schieffer is host of CBS News' "Face the Nation" and the network's chief Washington correspondent.

Following are excerpts of Schieffer’s conversation with Norville:

On the pressure of being a moderator:
BOB SCHIEFFER, DEBATE MODERATOR:  Under the rules I ask, say, President Bush a question.  He has two minutes to answer, and then John Kerry has a minute and a half to respond to that.  Then, if I think it's appropriate, I can go back and ask President Bush for a 30-second response to that and then John Kerry gets a 30-second response to that.  So if they don't come up with the right follow-up questions, it's going to be hard for me to sneak one in.  But maybe I'll find a way.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Yes.  But if you come up with a follow-up question, now they're all looking at the media under a magnifying glass because of the thing over at “60 Minutes.”  If you don't ask the right questions, you're then in the hot seat and become just as much a player as the two candidates have.  So you really are in a very, very tricky, delicate balance. 

SCHIEFFER:  But you know what?  I'm a grown person and I can handle that. 

And I must say the one thing about these that I think is very important, Deborah, is that they are fun and there's a certain big game, World Series, heavyweight championship air about them.  That's why people tune in to listen.  And if you're a baseball player, you want to be at the plate when it's the bottom of the ninth with two men out and the bases loaded.  So I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Yes, I admit it up front.  There is, I think, going to be increased pressure because of these controversies we've had over at CBS.  But that's just fine.  I think I can handle that. 

On what Kerry has to do:
    Bob, I know you've seen all the polls... What's Mr. Kerry got to do to pull this one out come debate time? 

SCHIEFFER:  Hit a couple of home runs, I think, Deborah.  I don't think there's any question. 

These national polls, I think the state polls in the battleground states are more important. 

I think John Kerry has got to demonstrate that he can lead the country in time of crisis better than President Bush can, because that's what the debate and that's what the vote on the presidency is always about.  Who do Americans feel most comfortable with in time of crisis?  He has got to find a way to demonstrate and articulate that frankly he can do it better than the incumbent president. 

On the president's task Wednesday night:
And what has George Bush got to do to make sure that these national polls sticks with him through November 2? 

SCHIEFFER:  I think he has just got to reassure people that he has the good of the country at heart, that he's had a mighty tough job, that the world changed after 9/11, and that he's not ever going to let the country be in the position it was on 9/11, when it was blindsided and attacked by these people who flew these airplanes into these buildings. 

So far I think in this campaign, he's done a pretty good job of that, but this campaign is not over yet.  I think it's the president's to lose at this point.


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