We're still digesting the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — we don't even know if it moved national or battleground polls yet — but it is never too early to look ahead to the second. And we have a couple of clues about what to expect in Debate No. 2, thanks to the way the moderators of that event, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, have covered Debate No. 1.
On "Good Morning America" Tuesday, ABC's Martha Raddatz discussed Trump's confusing answer to a question about implementing a "no first use" nuclear policy for the United States, which President Obama is considering.
"I would certainly not do first strike," Trump said. "I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it's over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table."
"I think all of us at the table last night were saying, 'He said what?' " Raddatz remarked on "GMA." "We had no idea what he was talking about in the end, whether he wanted first use or whether he didn't want any first use. Maybe that next debate. We'll see."
Subtle, Raddatz. Real subtle.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Raddatz will bring up nuclear policy in St. Louis on Oct. 9. She could change her mind in the next week and a half — or maybe she was just doing a moderator PSYOP. But the candidates better be ready to explain their views on first use, just in case.
As for style, Cooper hinted at a pretty hands-off approach Tuesday afternoon when he interviewed Phil Donahue, the former daytime talk show host who moderated a Democratic primary debate in 1992. We know that Cooper is a big Donahue fan. We know this because Cooper dressed up as Donahue for Halloween five years ago.
On Tuesday, Cooper recalled the way Donahue made himself practically invisible in a debate between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown.
"You opened it up, and I don't remember your exact words, but you were like 'Okay, gentlemen, talk,' " Cooper said. "And you stepped back, and I don't think you said anything for the next 45 minutes or something."
Later, Cooper added this: "Lester Holt has been — some have criticized him for not being enough of a traffic cop, for not stopping Donald Trump from interrupting. I think there is a value in stepping back. You don't want it to be about you. You want it to be a discussion about the two, and if one is interrupting the other, that tells the audience something, and people can make up their own minds about what exactly that means. I'm not sure it's always good for the moderator to be stepping in and trying to direct and keep everything to time."
It sure sounds like Cooper plans to insert himself into the next debate as infrequently as possible.
Cooper and Raddatz's own designs will be somewhat mitigated by the town hall format of the second debate. Half of the questions will come from the audience, so the moderators will have fewer opportunities than Holt did to make their own inquiries. And they will have to exert at least enough control over the proceedings to make sure voters get their turns to speak.
But both journalists are tipping their hands a bit.