[eDebate] Presidential debate getting help from College Debate
Wed Sep 24 12:32:45 CDT 2008
Right now, debate has taken a black eye in the public arena, but this is a story that paints it in a positive light, albeit on the wrong side of my personal political preference.
BTW, what national championships are they talking about? ADA? If so, then I think the leadership of CEDA and NDT can and should do a better job of distinguishing its champions and getting them a little more pub... Think about the NDT Champs blocking out their personal candidate choice on the issues... they would be totally ready to rock and roll...
SEPTEMBER 22, 2008
Stand-Ins, Naps Help Debate Preparation
By MONICA LANGLEY
get in the debating mood, Republican John McCain will host a town-hall
event and take a short nap. His rival, Democrat Barack Obama, will work
out or shoot hoops.
Sen. Obama will spar for the debate with Greg Craig, a Washington
lawyer and former official in the Clinton administration who is one of
his few gray-haired advisers. A McCain spokeswoman declined to discuss
who will practice with Sen. McCain.
The candidates have different ways of preparing for the debates, one at the University of Mississippi.After
weeks of TV attack ads and prepared remarks on the stump, the
candidates will face off on stage without teleprompters or advisers.
With the presidential race in a near dead heat, neither candidate can
afford a costly gaffe that sends his campaign into a tailspin. The
nationally televised debates are set to begin on Friday and are certain
to be among the most watched in history. Each campaign is seeking even
the smallest advantage.
Obama advisers, for example, are considering how to provoke Sen.
McCain into anger or showing what they say is how out of touch, or old,
he is. Advisers have told Sen. McCain to watch out when Sen. Obama uses
the phrase, "As I've said before..." One McCain adviser said it is used
"when Obama actually changes his position, to pretend it's what he's
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden is preparing for the
debate with his Republican rival, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, by
practicing against another female governor, Jennifer Granholm of
Michigan. The campaign selected Gov. Granholm, who like Gov. Palin is
also a sports mom and former beauty-pageant winner, to make sure Sen.
Biden doesn't comes across as sexist or superior. The McCain campaign
is having some trouble finding the right person for Gov. Palin's
practice sessions. Sen. Joe Lieberman was considered, but dropped for
being insufficiently fiery and loquacious to do a good Biden impression.
The campaigns have haggled over whether the debaters should be
seated or standing, as well as how much time the candidates have to
Both sides wanted "to give as much information to the American
people and get in as many questions as possible," said Sen. Lindsey
Graham of South Carolina, who represented Sen. McCain in the
negotiations with Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who represented Sen.
Obama. "But we needed to agree on enough rules to be sure it didn't
turn into a food fight."
Preparing Sen. Obama is Ron Klain, who assisted Sen. John Kerry and
Vice President Al Gore in the debates during their failed presidential
bids. Mr. Klain was played by Kevin Spacey in the movie "Recount,"
about the 2000 Florida vote debacle.
The McCain campaign has hired Brett O'Donnell, the debate coach who
led Jerry Falwell's Liberty University to several national debate
championships. He has critiqued all of Sen. McCain's debates, as well
as those of Sen. Obama. His advice to Sen. McCain: stand up. Mr.
O'Donnell told the campaign that Sen. McCain had his worst debates when
he was seated. "Proximity can be a problem for McCain," one adviser
said. "He'll take the bait and get sucked into fights."
When the Commission on Presidential Debates proposed a debate
schedule that included two debates sitting at tables and one town-hall
style, the McCain campaign wanted to have one with the candidates
standing at lecterns. By contrast, Gov. Palin wanted to be seated
during her debate, because she was more comfortable that way during her
successful run for Alaska governor. Negotiators agreed the candidates
will use a lectern.
The Obama campaign is saying that Sen. McCain is a more skillful
debater. "In this first debate, John McCain has the home-field
advantage with his expertise on foreign policy," said Anita Dunn,
senior adviser to Sen. Obama. "McCain needs a knockout." A McCain
adviser played down the need for his candidate to win the debate. The
important test, this adviser said: Who will American viewers decide is
better prepared to lead this country? "People will use John McCain as a
touchstone," the adviser said. "Does Obama measure up to McCain?"
The first debate, on Friday, will be at the University of
Mississippi in Oxford, where in 1962 the enrollment of James Meredith,
its first African-American student, touched off a deadly riot. The
debate commission had directed that this debate would cover domestic
issues, but the two campaigns agreed to change it to foreign policy.
Sen. McCain's advisers wanted to lead off with his strong suit, foreign
policy. Sen. Obama's advisers wanted to have the last debate center on
domestic issues, particularly the economy, which they believe will
benefit their candidate. Also, some Obama advisers said they didn't
want the issue of race "front and center" during a debate.
Another point of contention: the time allotted for the candidates to
debate each other, rather than simply answer a moderator's questions.
Sen. McCain, who prefers pithy, direct responses, wanted a structured
format. On the other hand, Sen. Obama favored time for open-ended
debate between the two men without intervention from the moderator.
The compromise: Each answer will last for nine minutes, two minutes
for each candidate and five minutes for them to argue between
Here is some of what the advisers are telling their candidates, based on interviews with both campaigns:
To Sen. McCain: Don't be so "brutally honest" that you spell out
what you don't know, such as the imploding economy. Don't let early
jitters make you come off as "testy." Those superstitious tokens? Make
sure they are handy so you aren't thrown if you can't find them. Don't
overuse your favorite semantic crutch, "My friends."
To Sen. Obama: Don't be so thorough on giving pros and cons that you
come off as the law professor you once were. Don't try sarcastic humor
that can seem flip, as during one appearance when you said determining
when life begins is "above my pay grade." Don't be so objective, or
Zen-like, that you don't show your passion.
To Sen. Biden: Don't talk too much; it often is your effort to fill
silence that can get you into trouble, such as last week when you
praised Sen. Hillary Clinton and then went on to add that she would
have been a better vice-presidential pick.
To Gov. Palin: Don't memorize talking points so that you give rote
answers rather than showing your own personality and grasp of issues.
Don't say that you can see Russia from parts of Alaska, which you did
in your first media interview, which was spoofed by Tina Fey playing
you on "Saturday Night Live."
The next presidential debates will be on Oct. 7 in Nashville, Tenn.,
and Oct. 15 in Hempstead, N.Y. The vice-presidential debate will be in
St. Louis on Oct. 2.
Write to Monica Langley at monica.langley at wsj.com
Corrections & Amplifications: A spokeswoman for
John McCain's campaign says Michael Steele will not participate in the
presidential candidate's debate preparation. The initial version of
this article said that Mr. Steele will play the part of Barack Obama in
preparing Sen. McCain for the debates.
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