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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Debates Denied, Univision Turns to Candidate Forums


Univision's request for an official presidential debate may have been rejected, but the Spanish language network has succeeded in securing both candidates' attendance at “Meet the Candidate” forums, the network said late Thursday afternoon.

President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney will sit down on separate nights for a question-and-answer session moderated by Univision's Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas. The sessions will take place in front of a live audience and will most likely air on a delay with Spanish-language translation, a Univision spokeswoman said. The dates of the interviews have not yet been determined.

Although Univision has interviewed presidential candidates in the past, the upcoming events will mark the first time both parties' presidential nominees have sat down for this type of longer, interactive discussion. That level of access underscores the importance of the country's 21 million registered Hisp anic voters, especially in key swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

As the No. 1 Spanish-language network, Univision serves as the only source of TV news for many of its viewers who do not watch NBC or CNN. The network said it had partnered with Facebook and will solicit questions from viewers via social media before each “Meet the Candidate” forum.

Last week, Randy Falco, Univision's chief executive, wrote a letter urging the Commission on Presidential Debates to add a debate that would focus on issues like education, health care and immigration that particularly resonate with Hispanic voters.

After the Commission rejected Mr. Falco's proposal, Mr. Ramos, a host on Univision's evening newscast used his prime-time program to urge both candidates to speak directly to Univision viewers.

“These events speak to President Obama and Governor Romney recognizing the important role Hispanic America will play in the elections and in defining the future of our country,” Isaac Lee, Univision's president of news, said in a statement.

According to recent polls, Mr. Romney's selection of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has tightened the race in Florida where, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics make up 13.1 percent of the state's more than 11.2 registered voters.