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Unless you’ve been ignoring the news, you know that the first presidential debate takes place at the University of Denver tomorrow night. This go-around focuses on domestic policy, and we’re sure moderator Jim Lehrer, executive editor of NewsHour on PBS, has plenty of hard-hitting questions ready. But we wanted to know: If you could moderate the debate, what would you ask the candidates? Here’s what we heard back from our readers and some well-knowns around Denver. (Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
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“If you only had one week in office and the opposing party would not veto your directives, what would you do to improve the country?” —James Mathias, reader
“To both: Give one example of a significant failure in your career and how it shaped the leader you are today; and tell us about your proudest moment of political courage—an instance when you stood up for something you believed was right even when it wasn’t popular. To Romney: What are the three most important things Colorado should consider before deciding to bid for the Winter Olympics? To Obama: Perhaps the most unheralded victory of your first term was delivering on the “man on the moon” promise to bring a playoff system to college football. What major sports injustice will you take on in your second term?” —State Senator Mike Johnston
“Both candidates have condemned attack ads, yet they still happen on both sides. Can you think of a way to campaign that I’d let my kids watch? Also: Would you please stop calling me?” —NERF, program director and afternoon personality, Channel 93.3 (KTCL)
“Ski or board?” —Michael Coonrad, reader
“To the president: Why do you think you can accomplish more in your second term than you could in your first? Why don’t you have the honesty to say that peace in the Middle East can only be accomplished by not always taking Israel’s side and creating an atmosphere of compromise? For Governor Romney: You pay 13 percent federal tax while everyone I know pays between 20 and 35 percent. How can you look at yourself in the mirror every day? How can you say Obama is not tough enough on China when you personally have invested there?—Chuck Morris, President and CEO, AEG Live Rocky Mountains
“Would you consider making the tax code individualized in order to prevent family structure discrimination in federal tax and benefits policies?” —Nancy Dickinson, reader
“(1) What book has mattered to you most? (2) Should we still teach arithmetic to children? What about teaching kids cursive? (3) Fundamental knowledge of the sciences is in serious decline. How do we fix this? (4) Should we restrict the content of film and video games? Does the First Amendment protect entertainment or just political speech?” —Rob Bowman, server, Vesta Dipping Grill, former schoolteacher
“We need solutions, not more questions. Tell me if you agree or disagree (and explain your alternative solution) with these answers to major issues challenging our democracy: (1) All private financing should be eliminated from campaigns and, instead, all candidates shall be provided free and equal airtime in major media. Candidates’ messages and discussions must be factually accurate and address major issues facing our country and nothing else. (2) To eliminate Congressional gridlock, special interests, and pork, all bills must be voted on one at a time on their own merit. (3) There must be total separation of church and state. People are free to worship whomever or whatever they wish, but religious organizations must support themselves. No taxpayer money should be given to religious organizations.” —Georgia Amar, artist, owner of Georgia Amar Fine Art, LLC
Bonus: What do kids want to know? Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Every Child Matters asked children of various ages what questions they would poise to the candidates. Hear their responses here.
We want to hear from you. Tell us in the comments what you’d like to ask the candidates.
—Image courtesy of Wayne Armstrong, University of Denver
Follow assistant editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger.