A preview of the format of the presidential debate at the University of Denver

Topics and questions are selected by the moderator

DENVER - Wednesday's presidential debate at the University of Denver is the first of three opportunities for the candidates to square off this year. The debate will also debut a new format.

The debate is organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The nonprofit commission was established in 1987.

Commission spokesman Peter Eyre said Wednesday’s debate starts at 7 p.m. MST and will still be 90 minutes long, but will now be broken up into six segments.

"There will be fewer questions, but more extended discussion that dives into certain issues in detail," Eyre said.

A coin toss determined that President Barack Obama will get the first question of the debate. There are no opening statements, but each candidate will have two-minutes to make a closing statement.

Governor Mitt Romney will present his closing statement last.

The debate will focus on the economy, health care, the role of government and governing. Each segment will be approximately 15 minutes long.

Moderator Jim Lehrer will open each segment with a question, and the candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will try to use the balance of the time in the segment to facilitate a debate on the issues.

Future debates in this campaign cycle will be:

  • A vice presidential debate Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
  • The second presidential debate Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
  • The third presidential debate Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.