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Before she was tapped to moderate Tuesday’s presidential debate, Candy Crowley — despite her CNN status and impressive credentials as a journalist — flew under the TV news anchor radar somewhat, not quite a household name.
This week, her profile will rise significantly as master of ceremonies at Hofstra University, where she will sit down with President Obama and Mitt Romney for the rivals’ second-to-final face-off. The stakes are high: Will Obama improve upon his widely panned performance two weeks ago? Will Romney ramp up his aggressive stance, trouncing the incumbent once more? And, since all eyes will be on her too, will Crowley remain calm and score kudos as Martha Raddatz did last week for her tough, tightly-controlled moderation of the Joe Biden-Paul Ryan showdown — or will she flounder like Jim Lehrer getting steamrolled by the two candidates?
Crowley, for her part, is an especially seasoned political journalist, having risen through the ranks at CNN to anchor the cable news channel’s Sunday morning talk show State of the Union.
Here are five things to know about Crowley, beginning with why she’s giving Obama and Romney pre-debate jitters:
1. She wants to see a good fight.
As previously reported, Teams Obama and Romney are worried that Crowley will go rogue by using the questions posed by pre-screened undecided voters during the town hall-style debate as a launching point. The TV veteran has not agreed to their rules barring such questioning — and she vows to stir the pot while maintaining control of the debate.
“I think that, in some ways, people go into it expecting that you’re going to mix it up with the candidates. And I’m not saying that at some point that won’t happen or that that doesn’t happen. I’m just saying that the idea is to get the candidates to mix it up with each other,” she said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post.
2. She’s the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate.
The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates came under pressure to recruit female moderator from former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson, who was the last woman to win the gig in 1992 when Bill Clinton took on George H.W. Bush. In addition, three students from New Jersey’s Montclair High School, Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel and Elena Tsemberis, took up the cause with a petition on change.org in protest of the commission’s record of overwhelmingly picking male moderators for presidential debates.
3. She’s the first woman to host a Sunday morning public affairs program.
Crowley took the reigns from John King in February 2010 to host CNN’s State of the Union. She joined the network in 1987 after stints at NBC as a reporter and as The Associated Press’ White House Correspondent. The award-winning senior political correspondent has also hosted the political news program Inside Politics and been on the scene covering numerous elections throughout her illustrious career.
4. She’s a health-conscious vegetarian who practices transcendental meditation.
In a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Crowley answered questions about her weight loss after she began to make headlines for a trimmer physique. “It’s stunning to me that something I consider so separate and apart from what I do for a living has taken up so much space in some people’s thoughts. I am a hard-news journalist. That is what I do,” she said at the time, revealing that her altered appearance had nothing to do with surgery but rather a combination of dieting and exercise. She meditates twice-daily. She’s also been a vegetarian for 17 years.
5. “She reads everything.”
Watch out, candidates: according to journalist Alexandra Pelosi, Crowley’s preparedness is top-notch. “She’s like the CliffsNotes for all the other reporters,” Pelosi told the Washington Post after Crowley ascended to the State of the Union anchor desk. “They talk about those things that nobody reads — nobody reads bills. But Candy does. She reads all of that stuff. She reads everything. On the bus, everyone would just go to her and ask her, ‘Candy, so what’s this bill about?'”
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