. . . Monday September 20, 2004

Once, Twice, Three Times a Candidate

It’s on.

The Kerry team earned its first major victory in awhile by getting the Bushies to come around (or to flip flop) to the notion of having three debates. This is good news for Kerry because he is trailing in just about every poll. Edwards and Cheney will face off once. For political junkies, this is like four Super Bowls in two weeks. For pre-game analysis, you might want to check out James Fallows article When George Meets John.

The Kerry v Bush debate details:

September 30

Miami, Florida

Foreign Policy

Host: Jim Lehrer

October 8


Town Hall Meeting with Undecided Voters

Host: Charles Gibson

October 13

Tempe, Arizona

Domestic Issues

Host: Bob Schieffer


Oct 5

Cleveland, Ohio

Cheney v Edwards

Host: Gwen Ifil

So what can we expect? Both sides have been setting expectations low and explaining that the other dude has never lost a debate. If there isn’t much of a shift in the polls, the nights will be a whole lot more important for Kerry whereas Bush can settle for a tie.

The nights will also be a whole lot more challenging for Kerry. Remember, these debates are not a battle of intellect. They are a battle of character (how you’re character plays on TV to be exact). Did Kennedy wallop Nixon because he outsmarted him?

Let’s put this election, and these debates, into some context. W has done just about everything one could ask of him to lose this election. The one exception to this is the performance of his campaign team. They have had great success in attacking Kerry, going after his strengths and portraying him as a flip-flopper.

Kerry has three nights to undo the damage done to his campaign (some of it clearly self-inflicted). The key for John Kerry will not simply be how his performances compare to those of President Bush.

It will be how his three performances compare to each other.

Gore (who had an intellectual edge similar to the one most people have over their pet fish) came out a big loser in 2000 because he tried out a different personality in each debate. If Kerry even slips an inch in that direction, this election is over.

If John Kerry gets a case of the flop sweats in Debate One. He better wear a terrycloth robe and look like he’s in a steam room during debates two and three. Consistency will be the key for Kerry. If he can consistently be winning on the issues, that’s icing on the cake.

Concentration is important!