Bob Schieffer on deck for last debate

Will moderate next Wednesday's McCain-Obama matchup

NASHVILLE -- One of the keenest students of this year's presidential debates has a compelling reason to pay so close attention: He's up next.

CBS' "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer was tapped months ago to moderate the third and final presidential debate, which will take place Wednesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., a suburb of New York City. Schieffer said in an interview before Tuesday's debate here that he had an inkling that he had landed a task that might well end up being crucial to what happens on Nov. 4.

"It's going to be very, very interesting. The whole election may turn on that last debate," Schieffer said.

After watching the first two debates between the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Schieffer said that he's going to try to make sure that the candidates answer his questions. In the vp debate with PBS' Gwen Ifill, neither candidate hewed precisely to the topic at hand, and GOP vp candidate Sarah Palin said flat out that she wasn't going to answer some questions.

"If they do (fail to answer the questions), I'm going to call them on it," Schieffer said. Not answering questions "is not what a debate is about," he said.

Schieffer will also have a little bit easier time on time than his colleague, NBC's "Meet the Press" moderator Tom Brokaw, did on Tuesday night with Barack Obama and John McCain. Throughout the debate, Brokaw had to remind them both to stick to the rules and time limits that both sides had agreed to. It was mostly a losing battle.

"Hey, I'm just a hired hand," Brokaw said.

For the third and final debate, the candidates will have more time to answer questions. The debate will be cut into nine segments, with Schieffer posing a question that will elicit two-minute answers from each candidate followed by a five-minute discussion where Schieffer said he'll try to get the two candidates talking. There was a limit of one minute discussion per topic in the Brokaw-moderated debate.

For the third and final debate, the topic will be domestic issues. Schieffer has been working hard for months, finding stories from newspapers and on the Internet and formulating questions.

"Obviously the economy will be on the list," Schieffer said. Other issues could include education policy, health care and immigration.

It's not his first time at the rodeo, either. He anchored a Bush-Kerry debate in 2004. But it was Schieffer's first time at the Grand Ole Opry, when he and his band Honky Tonk Confidential played two songs including his signature, "TV Anchorman."