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Media, Candidates Gird For Crazy Debate Schedule

Reporters stockpile stimulants for two debates in 14 hours. Coffee for O'Sullivan. Red Bull for Bailey. Viagra for Leibovich!

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire -- The political reporters who pack this town are stockpiling stimulants as they face a strange dilemma this evening: By the time anyone has read the stories they write about tonight's debate, a second, morning debate will have rendered them obsolete.

The first debate will be broadcast on ABC at 9:00 Eastern Standard Time tonight. The second will air on NBC at 9:00 a.m. Saturday. A senior Romney aide told BuzzFeed that campaigns complained about the schedule, which will give them little time to rest -- and the press shares their frustrations.

“The first thing you’re doing Sunday morning if you’re someone who’s interested in presidential politics is turning on the next debate,” said Charles Mahtesian, national politics editor at POLITICO. “We don’t expect that there’s going to be tremendous readership tonight, because people won’t have time to read the stuff.”

To cope with this challenge, Mahtesian said Politico is planning a lighter-than-usual slate of articles for Saturday night, with the intent to run a couple big-picture stories assessing the weekend’s two debates together.

“We just don’t want to write anything that’s going to be fleeting and transitory and have a shelf life of just a couple hours,” reasoned Mahtesian.

Several journalists who spoke to BuzzFeed said they plan basically to work nonstop until noontime tomorrow.

“I have my reinforcements,” said Yahoo News reporter Holly Bailey. “I’m probably the only reporter on the trail who doesn’t drink coffee, so I’ve already purchased my stash of sugar-free Red Bull. Several cans, in fact.”

“Coffee, Saturday night discipline, more coffee," said National Journal’s Jim O’Sullivan.

“Take an extra Viagra and just be ready to go in the morning,” said Mark Leibovich of the New York Times.

But forget the reporters. Does the schedule mean neither debate offers a candidate a chance of winning the weekend? Not necessarily. ABC’s debate will have the advantage of ending up on the front page of Sunday morning newspapers throughout the country, while NBC’s event may get more love from online media since bloggers will have all Sunday to pick apart the content.

What's more, the morning debate will likely offer candidates a chance to expand the themes they tried Saturday, and to control the previous night's damage.

"They’ll have a chance to clean up their mistakes," said the Washington Examiner's Byron York.

Meanwhile, while the second debate's moderators can pick up the ball from the first.

“I think I’m going to treat this as one big debate,” said York.

McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.

Contact McKay Coppins at

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