Katie Couric debate up in the air

5:00 AM PST 04/10/2008 by Paul J. Gough, AP

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NEW YORK -- The waiting game continues on whether "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric will get to moderate a presidential debate.

A week ago, CBS offered prime TV real estate following "60 Minutes" on Sunday to give for the April 27 debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ahead of the May 6 North Carolina debate. While Clinton accepted immediately, Obama has held back.

"The campaign is still checking with the senator's schedule," North Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jerry Meek said Thursday. "We presume they'll give some word soon, but we feel really good about it."

The party and CBS are going ahead with the plans for the debate, which will be held at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. Both conducted a site visit Thursday, and the party, which controls the tickets, is taking applications.

"As you would say in Hollywood, the show must go on," Meek said. "We're proceeding with the assumption that he will say yes."

CBS News still hasn't heard, either. The stakes are high for the network, as recent reports have said that Couric may not remain at CBS without a significant bump in the ratings between now and the end of the year. While CBS News has denied the report, the network wouldn't mind seeing millions of viewers tuning to CBS and Couric to moderate the debate.

Meek said it's possible that the debate could happen on another day, based on the candidates' schedule, though it's preferred on Sunday because of the "60 Minutes" tie-in.

If the debate goes on as scheduled, Couric would moderate it with "Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer.
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