Chris Cuomo says tonight’s Democratic town hall will be all about candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley — because it’s not his job to “take it to the candidates.”
The Democratic candidates will each participate in a town hall hosted by the Iowa Democratic Party and Drake University on CNN at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET. We caught up with Cuomo as he arrived on scene to discuss his role in the event.
TheWrap: What type preparation went into tonight’s town hall?
Cuomo: Heavy, consistent and constant. That’s the way CNN does this. There is no preparation, there is only over-preparation. We go at it pretty much from the moment they say go. This process is different than a debate process because a town hall is as much about making sure you present the candidates with a full range of relevant questions as it is figuring out what questions to ask. My task tonight is not to take it to the candidates. This is about the voters and the candidates. My job is different. My job tonight is to just keep it moving along and have the best seat in the house.
Why a town hall as opposed to a debate?
CNN has been offering this to both parties for some time. CNN felt the town hall was a different and better way to deal with this one-week period out from the caucuses.
O’Malley is polling far behind Clinton and Sanders. Will he get equal time?
Has CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker given you any specific instructions for tonight?
Yes. Be your best and make this as useful to the voters as we can. Make this as much about the candidate as we can. Make sure they answer the voter’s questions to the best extent that they can. And make sure we get to as many questions as we can.
It kicks off soon… you ready?
This is gravy for me, doing this town hall tonight. It’s not about how I coordinate or conduct or any of that stuff that usually goes on around a debate. This is about the town hall. This is about the voters. So for me, this is going to be a really rare opportunity. I don’t get a chance to see all three candidates, or all the candidates from either party, engaging with the same group of voters. You know what I mean? This is going to be really interesting because I’m used to talking to the candidates myself and they treat us differently than they treat voters. If [someone] doesn’t like my question they can kind of bat it aside and say, “I don’t like your question.” They won’t say that to voters. It’s a really rare opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.