When it comes to asking Tim Kaine and Mike Pence the tough questions during the only vice presidential debate, taking place on Tuesday at Longwood University, look no further than debate moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News.
Quijano is well-positioned to steer various angles of the conversation. Over the past 15 years, Quijano has been a key voice on some of America’s most important stories, ranging from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Newtown shooting in 2012, and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
Aside from major news events, Quijano served as CNN’s White House correspondent for four years during both the Bush and Obama administrations before joining CBS News in 2010. Conservative news outlets have been critical of Quijano’s reporting on immigration reform. Politico also noted that Quijano’s special report in 2011 showing the White House did not send letters of condolence to families of service members who committed suicide pushed President Barack Obama to change the policy.
But as a young woman of color, Quijano stands out among fellow debate moderators like Lester Holt or Anderson Cooper as a reflection of America’s changing electorate.
Quijano, 42, is the youngest journalist to moderate a debate since 1988, according to Variety. As the Washington Post noted, Quijano, who is Filipino American, is the first Asian American to moderate a general election debate. Additionally, as an anchor for CBSN, CBS News’ 24-hour digital network, Quijano is the first moderator from a primarily digital network.
"Her perspective, dedication to political reporting and important role on CBS News’s live-streaming platform make her an ideal choice to lead the only vice presidential debate this fall," David Rhodes, CBS News president, said in a statement to Variety.
With Trump’s absence, Quijano likely won’t face the same fact-checking scrutiny as Holt during last week’s presidential debate. But at a moment when the percentage of voters of color is at an all-time high, millennials are a growing segment of the electorate, and social media plays an integral role in campaign outreach and messaging, Quijano is bringing general election debates into the 21st century.