Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate Advice from the Pros -- and from Some Who've Been There

There's no shortage of debate tips and advice being bandied about these days, as Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) prepare to square off tonight. In this historic election season, it's worth noting that this is not the first time a man and woman have squared off in the vice presidential debate. Remember Bush 41 vs. Geraldine Ferraro?

MSNBC did a good interview with the historic debate duo, the first time the two have ever sat down together for an interview. That's hard to believe since Bush 41 and Ferraro debated almost 25 years ago, but it's true nonetheless. And while the political tables have been turned for the Biden-Palin debate — a male Democrat is facing off against a female Republican — Bush and Ferraro agreed that public interest in the debate is higher because of the gender factor. I agree, but I believe the anticipation about tonight's event also stems largely from Palin herself. She's still inexplicably popular with the Republican base, while at the same time its been leaked that leaders of her own party are increasingly concerned about her performance. After that tete-a-tete with Katie Couric, who can blame them? Polls show the public is increasingly skeptical about Palin's qualifications as well -- though how much that skepticism will affect their votes remains to be seen.

Richard Edwards, author of Competitive Debate: The Official Guide, has also offered some interesting advice for the vice presidential candidates via The Political Wire.

Edwards' Tips for Sarah Palin

-- Concentrate less on details of the McCain campaign and more on examples and stories which show the ability to connect with ordinary Americans.
-- Less formal town hall format offers ideal opportunity to show understanding for the concerns of Main Street.
-- Don't worry about going for the knock-out blow against your opponent -- it's John McCain who must close the gap in the two remaining presidential debates.
-- Have confidence and offer substantive answers.

Edwards' Tips for Joe Biden

-- Avoid seeming condescending with body language or direct verbal attacks.
-- Make John McCain the opponent rather than Sarah Palin.
-- Be charming by offering sincere congratulations for Palin's ground-breaking nomination.
-- Stay close to the Obama campaign talking points.

So what tips do you have? I know one thing for sure -- Biden needs to avoid the whole Lazio catastrophe. Remember when former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY) debated Hillary Clinton in her first race for Senate. He was soundly criticized for his aggressiveness against the first lady, and while Clinton likely would have won the seat without his problematic debate performance -- well, let's just say, it proved to be the nail in his coffin. Biden also needs to avoid foot-in-mouth disease, and try to act like he's the number two on the Obama-Biden ticket -- no matter how contrary it is to his instincts.

Feel like speaking your mind about who won the debate? Sign up to Rate the Debate -- not just this one but the next two presidential debates as well. According to their web site, Rate the Debates is "a citizen-driven guide to better media coverage of the issues that matter most to Americans. Sign up to use our online tool to rate how well the media moderates the debates as they happen. We will immediately tally your response and inject our people-powered feedback into the news cycle -- before media pundits and spin doctors (mis)interpret the events for their viewers." Great idea, huh?

Copyright 2008 (original text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

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