September 30, 2004

Get Your Debate On

The first Presidential Debate of 2004 is tonight, and boy does it promise to be a barnburner. In the blue corner, we find the junior Senator from Massachusetts, reported flip-flopper extraordinaire John Kerry. In the red corner, we have President George W. Bush, whom one pundit described four years ago as the “most unqualified man ever to be nominated by a major party”.

Lincoln-Douglas it ain’t. For starters, that was a real debate. This isn’t. This is something a bit more than a joint press conference, but not much more than that. The candidates cannot question each other directly, cannot go over strict time limits, and cannot move out from behind the podium. Even without excitement, I will be watching anyway. I’m not entirely sure why. Obligation perhaps or maybe I am waiting for an impossible moment where I go from having to vote for one of these guys to wanting to vote. I don’t really see that happening though.

The key for Kerry is to eschew his natural predilection for using 50 words when 10 will do, and 4 points-of-view when one is necessary. The stakes for him are unbelievably high here. On the last day in September, less than six weeks away from the election, most people still don’t know much about him. Much of this is his own damned fault, as his spent his convention, his moment in the sun, discussing the most pressing issue of 1971. Much of that reputation has been demolished, either fairly or unfairly depending on your persuasion, by the Swift Boat Vets. Beyond that, the voters know mostly what the Bush campaign wants them to know: his flip-flopping, his overly nuanced positions, his slightly unhinged wife. Tonight, he needs to stop all that. It will take a lot. He needs to give sharp, concise and most importantly, short answers to the questions.

For Bush the challenge will be to string multiple words together without saying anything embarrassing. No “spreading their love” here please. This is much easier than Kerry’s task. Since everyone knows that debates are not his strong suit, the expectations a low. All he has to do is not make any real gaffes, stick to the message, and make Kerry beat him.

Posted by Frinklin at September 30, 2004 05:32 PM
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