Live from Soldier Field…

By Alissa Krinsky 

The AFL-CIO Presidential Forum, broadcasting live now on MSNBC, has moderator Keith Olbermann and the seven Democratic candidates literally sweating it out as they stand outside, in Soldier Field, with a heat index of 97 degrees. The presidential hopefuls, though, are taking it in stride. MSNBC’s DC bureau VP Tammy Haddad told me earlier, “they seem pretty cool and ready to rumble.”

The outdoor venue sets this event apart from the eight previous presidential debates this campaign season. But, with so many, so early, how do the networks keep viewers tuning in to watch?

“We try to focus each debate or forum on issues people are actually focused on – taxes, jobs, health care,” Haddad says. “It’s also a chance to force (the candidates) to go on the record.” Haddad believes Americans also may sense that, for the candidates, it’s a “make or break time” to get their messages out to the public. Bottom line, she says, “people like a competition. These candidates are people who have to go toe to toe.”