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September 23, 2008


I agree with Brendan that the spin is more important than the debate. E.g., I thought Bush did quite poorly in the debates against Gore, yet they proved to be a boon to Bush.

However, I predict that this election's debates will help Sarah Palin. She has been demonized as stupid, but I think she will hold her own against Biden, thus enhancing her image. I base my opinion on how well she dealt with Charles Gibson's gotcha questions in his ABC interview.

Gibson was so tricky with her. Setting her up to fall into his word traps and snares.

GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we’re going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

I do agree with David's comments, except on the Gibson interview. Gibson did press her but she stumbled too much. Just my opinion.


On debates -

The media does adore bantering about who "won the debate", usually based on how well each candidate did in comparison to prior expectations.

How the candidates projects their image is another factor (being relaxed, confident, sounding optimistic, giving "easy to grasp answers", etc).

I'd say this second set of criteria matter more to the general public.

Gov. Palin will probably go into the debates with fairly low expectations, so that favors her. Sen. Obama will probably go into the debates with generally high expectations, so that gives him a greater challenge.

Republican supporters will play up these disparities in advance, setting overall low expectations for their own candidates. (Karl Rove did so today in one of his neutral advice editorials.)

If the debates themselves don't shift voters why do the conventions? Are conventions just the point at which most voters commit to a candidate, at least with regard to polls?

After thinking this over, I think this is one of the most ridiculous posts ever for you, Brendan. The Kennedy-Nixon debate is considered by political scholars to a game changer. Television changed everything.

If you go by simple odds, Stimson is already saying that 25% of all televised debates had an effect. And we have no idea at all how accurate polling was back then. So do we assume that that data is as advanced in the past 50 years as any of the polling-on-steroid sites like 538?

And that's if you think Stimson is right about those elections. I believe this question in 1992 (which Holbrook says only cost Bush 2 points) was a major turning point for Clinton. It may have cost Bush the election:


Regardless, a two point jump for an evening's work is huge. And Palin's recent performance with Couric may actually put the VP debate into play for once. Sheesh, Obama might get a bounce from Letterman.

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