Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Do the Debates Matter ?

This election campaign has largely been about reputation sullying, endless ads, rife with half-truths and quotations taken out of context. This is the first chance America has had to see the two men who would be president face to face and to hear what they have to say to each other.

The experts say that, yes, in a close election the debates can matter. What matters most is not the closely drawn intellectual argument about rival policy platforms, but the body language and the pithy one-liner that sums up an opponent's faults. The tone was set by the very first presidential TV debate: John Kennedy vs Richard Nixon in 1960. One commentator at the time said JFK looked like "a bronzed warrior" whereas Tricky Dicky appeared sick, unshaven and sweaty. Ronald Reagan's put-down of Jimmy Carter in 1979, ( "There you go again") encapsulated the feelings of many that the incumbent was a bit wordy and long-winded, and allowed Reagan to appear sharp and unthreatening.

President Obama sees debates as a "jump-ball" - a moment when a team can grab control of a game from a difficult position.  His convention speech was disappointing and workmanlike so we hope that he does  indeed grab control of this debate. He is most certainly capable.

Mr Romney, on the other hand, is behind in most opinion polls - badly so in the vital swing states - and needs a win. But the debates serve another purpose. While they only occasionally change minds, they do leave voters much better informed. They explore how candidates would govern - provide a kind of manifesto, a promissory note for the next four years.

Plan on watching the debate if you can. It will provide the best and most honest comparison of the two men that you have had so far. Your future depends on one of them.

Debate: 9:00-10:30 Eastern Time...October the 3rd

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