Second Presidential Debate Preview

by Sal on October 7, 2008

in Election 2008,Politics

Tonight is the Second Presidential Debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.  The debate is in a town-hall format, where selected undecided voters will ask questions as determined by Drive-By Media anchor Tom Brokaw

The Town Hall Debate format has been in existence at the presidential level since the 1992 election between President George H. W. Bush and then-Gov. Bill Clinton.  It was during this debate that Bush appeared uncomfortable at times, and checked his watch a couple of times, leading to the charge that he was out-of-touch. 

The Town Hall format can be a tricky one for the Presidential candidates.  It is harder to re-frame a question from a perceived “ordinary American” than a debate moderator.  Additionally, the questions sometimes have unpredictable results, such as when John Kerry flubbed a question on Abortion in 2004

The format is also less formal.  Candidates can walk around during the debate, and sit on “directors chairs” instead of stand a podiums.  This often leads to challenges as well, as during the 2000 debate when Gore was perceived as crowding Bush during the debate. 

The Town Hall format favors McCain, as he loves the format, but the rules this year are different than in the past.  All questions have been chosen beforehand by Brokaw, and questioners are not allowed to deviate from the questions (in the past, the moderator did not know the questions beforehand).  There is also no ability for follow-up, by either the questioner or Brokaw.  These clauses were inserted at the insistence of the Obama campaign, as Obama does not do well extemporaneously. 

McCain needs to gain some ground tonight.  He needs to be aggressive, but not come off as too aggressive, by presenting a vision for the future while at the same time showing how Obama is not fit to be President, all without coming across as mean.  It is a tough assignment, and although the format favors McCain, he is the underdog tonight as he struggles in the polls, and must gain some ground. 

As usual, we will be LiveBlogging the debate tonight, beginning at approximately 8:45 PM EST.  Hope to see you then!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike October 7, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I’m not concerned about Obama’s rules about not deviating from the questions. Debate rules have always been made to be broken, and they always have been broken. McCain won’t let him hide.

As for the moderator, I don’t like the fact that NBC gets one. But Brokaw knowing the questions really isn’t different than in debates past, even in town halls. Town halls where the moderator knew and selected the questions are once again, debate rules made to be broken.

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