Panel sets three 2012 presidential debates

WASHINGTON Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:29pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An independent panel on Monday scheduled three presidential debates for next October between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger.

The Commission on Presidential Debates set the first debate for October 3 at the University of Denver in Colorado, the second for October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and the third for October 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.

A debate between the vice presidential nominees was set for October 11 at Center College in Danville, Kentucky. The presidential election is on November 6, 2012.

In making the announcement, the commission also issued a ruling that appeared to take into account the possibility of a third-party candidate emerging next year.

It said candidates eligible to be invited to the general election debates must appear on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning the presidency, and have at least 15 percent support in major polls.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement that Obama looks forward to next year's debates.

"Once the Republicans have selected their candidate, we will work through the details with their campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates," he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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