Showing posts with label debates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label debates. Show all posts

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates should be penalized 30 percent of their delegates

That's Reince Priebus from Kansas City discussing the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process before the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference.

Here's the full context from David Lieb with the AP:
Priebus defended plans to shorten the primary season by imposing "a death penalty" for any state that jumps ahead of the national party's calendar, cutting their delegates to the national convention to "next to zero." He proposed to hold no more than eight GOP primary debates, with the party picking the host partners and moderators. Candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates should be penalized 30 percent of their delegates, Priebus said.
Now, FHQ will try not go too deep on this. After all, this just an idea that is floating around out there.1 The "death/super penalty" is on the books, but earlier conventions and presidential primary debates sanctions among other things are not. These are all matters that will be discussed, tweaked or completely changed by the RNC's new Rules subcommittee.

On some level, this is a long way for me to say, "Hey. Look at that 'should' in 'should be penalized' in Priebus' comment about primary debates." Despite the presence of some uncertainty as to the final version of the RNC rules for 2016, the 30% figure does continue to leave us with some questions about any proposed penalties and how they are meted out. And truth be told, those questions are the same basic questions FHQ posed several weeks ago during and in the aftermath of the RNC summer meeting in Boston. But now we have something concrete from the chairman of the national party in the way of sanctions.

First of all, this statement makes clear that the RNC is considering a plan similar to the DNC rules that attempt to rein in rogue states on the primary calendar. The DNC instituted a plan for the 2008 cycle that would not only hit those states in violation of the rules, but also penalize candidates who campaigned in those states. Given Chairman Priebus' comments, the RNC may look to go in a similar direction though seemingly directed more at the candidates than the states/state parties.

The new question that emerges is, "30% of which delegates?"
Is this 30% of the overall delegates a candidate has/will have?  
Is it 30% of the delegates won from a state that holds a rogue debate? 
Why are states/state parties not penalized for holding unsanctioned debates?
The first two subquestions are direct alternatives to each other. Either the RNC under this plan would penalize 30% of all of a candidate's delegates from all states or just rogue debates states. The latter seems more "fair" but if the objective is keep the candidates away from presidential primary debates that are conducted minus the national party's blessing, then that former may prove more effective. If you are Newt Gingrich, for example, then losing about 8 of 23 delegates after having participated in a hypothetically rogue South Carolina debate is probably better than losing 41 delegates from your eventual 135 delegate total.2 Candidates, depending on the race and their relative positioning among each other can probably shrug off the loss at the state level, but would find it much more difficult to do the same if the penalty affected the overall total.

Extending this, what would happen in the case of multiple violations?3 If the penalty is assessed on the state total and not the overall delegate total, the multiple violations problem is somewhat minimized but not completely eliminated. Under that rule/sanction, candidates would be penalized for participating in hypothetical rogue debates in Iowa and New Hampshire, for example. They would lose 30% of their delegates in each state. Under the alternative "penalize the overall total" there is nothing left for the party to use once the penalty is handed down. A candidate could rationalize continued participation in rogue debates by saying either, "I've already been penalized, what's to stop me from taking part in this next unsanctioned debate?" or "There's no way the RNC is actually going to stick to this penalty. I'll go ahead and attend this next debate."

Of course, the same sort of rationale exists for the candidates under the state-level sanction as well if there are multiple rogue debates in one state. They can't be penalized twice.

All of this makes the final subquestion above all the more interesting. Why not penalize the states/state parties as well? To some extent, the penalize the candidates strategy is sound, albeit with some backwards logic. By penalizing the candidates, the candidates are bound to stay away from rogue debates and thus state parties will not hold them. That could happen, but if you are the RNC, why leave it to chance? Even if the frontrunner is an establishment-type candidate, it will be hard for such a candidate to stay away from all of these debates should others participate.


I keep thinking of the 1980 general election presidential debates, particularly that Reagan/Anderson debate. They took aim at Carter instead of each other for nearly the entire time. Carter had no equivalent way to respond. If states/state parties are not checked in some way, what is to prevent them from allowing a similar forum for any and all also-rans through viable alternative candidates from participating and raking the aforementioned frontrunner through the coals for an hour to an hour and a half. Actually, those candidates would have incentive to do so -- attack -- in order to negate the deficit created by the 30% delegate penalty. The objective is to reduce the number of delegates for a frontrunner by making that candidate less palatable to voters. And again, without a debate stage, it is most difficult for a non-participating candidate to respond in kind. How does a national party disincentivize this outcome without penalizing the states/state parties as well.

Overall, this is a tough calculus for the campaigns to undertake. It isn't as if what we're talking about here are real delegates allocated after a given state votes. Rather, the issue to attempting to ascertain the impact of all of these movements on a virtual delegate count in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

This can go any number of ways in practice. The cautionary tale of the unintended consequences nested in seemingly innovative or simple rules changes in the post-reform era is or should be ever present for the national parties. That said, there are two paths that FHQ sees as more likely than some of the others:

  1. Backfire. The rules change instituting a candidate penalty backfires. Either an establishment-type candidate is frontrunner and is baited into participating in rogue debates as a defense mechanism or a candidate other than an establishment-type is the frontrunner, is able to stay away from any rogue debates, and begins primary season against a group of candidates who, on the offensive, were forced to participate in unsanctioned debates and are at a delegate deficit before any delegates are actually allocated. 
  2. A redefined invisible primary. Let's call this one the "Only winning move is not to play" strategy. No, I'm not talking about not playing in any rogue debates; I'm talking about not playing at all. If the calculus of all of this is so rigorous, why not skip it? Delay jumping into the race as much as possible. If you are a frontrunner (or potential frontrunner), establishment-type candidate and incentives exist in the altered rules for your adversaries to attack and attack and attack you in rogue and sanctioned debates, why not remove the target? Don't run or delay running until the last minute. [Think of the possibility for white knight stories!!!] This option seems like a magic bullet for the RNC, but one that looks good in theory, but not necessarily in practice. Yes, there may be an emergent and perverse pressure among the viable candidates to hold out as long as possible, but 1) It is hard to invisibly/unnoticed put in place the infrastructure necessary to run for a presidential nomination; 2) Given that reality, states/state parties may still have incentive to host rogue debates; and 3) Additionally, the press involved in those hypothetical debates would be potentially likely to ask participants about the policy positions of looming candidacies whether they have an presidential nomination exploratory committee or not. 

Some form of backfire seems most likely. However, the bottom line here is that tinkering with rules in this particular area borders on being a fool's errand. It crossed the line from managing the presidential nomination process to attempting to control it. National parties that have crossed that line in the post-reform era have been the parties that have faced unintended consequences -- often bad ones -- when the rules go from paper to practice.

1 Granted, the idea is one that is coming from someone -- the RNC chairman -- with some power over the process, but still, it's just an idea; not a rule.

2 This exercise utilizes Gingrich's delegate figures from 2012 in South Carolina and overall.

3 Recall, that the multiple violations problem was an issue for the RNC in 2012. There was no contingency in place for states that violated both the timing rules and the proportionality requirement. There was only one 50% penalty that could be levied whether one or both rules were broken by states. Florida, for instance, did not face two 50% penalties for holding a non-compliant January primary and allocating its delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Two Outta Three Ain't Bad in South Carolina

The RNC and now the South Carolina GOP.

Perhaps some on the other side of the aisle are skeptical, but count FHQ among the group of folks with a different take on the South Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee resolution barring CNN and NBC from hosting presidential primary debates during the 2016 cycle. [See the full resolution here.]

Rightfully, many are questioning the ability of the national party to enforce such a resolution during 2015 and 2016. The temptation will certainly be there for candidates and state parties to shirk. However, if both the national party and state parties are against CNN/NBC debates -- and for a reduction in the total number of presidential primary debates -- then such action becomes more manageable from the national party's perspective. It helps. It removes one potential obstacle to the end goal coming to fruition.

Now, does it completely solve the problem?

No. The candidates will have a say in all of this as well. But it becomes harder for the candidates and their campaigns to justify siding with the two blacklisted networks over both the national party and state parties; particularly if this spreads in/across the other early states/state parties.

Still, will this resolution end up a "crumpled up piece of paper in the trash come 2015/2016"? Well, it isn't out of the realm of possibility. This is a resolution and not a party rule, mind you.

...for now.

FHQ doubts that will change on the state level, but the RNC could add some teeth to its debates resolution in its 2016 delegate selection rules deliberations in the coming months. For the time being, though, it is noteworthy that at least one early state state party is in lockstep with the RNC on the matter.

That's a good thing from the national party perspective.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

More on the RNC Rules and Presidential Primary Debates

RNC Chair Reince Priebus was on with Hugh Hewitt yesterday and the rules of the presidential primary process were among the topics of discussion. The biggest news out of the interview is that the RNC Growth and Opportunity Project -- the five person group charged with examining the whys and hows of the GOP's 2012 electoral fortunes -- is set to roll out some of its findings and some recommendations on March 18.

Part of those recommendations clearly seems to be how the RNC will deal with presidential primary debates in the 2016 cycle. FHQ has already weighed in on this to some extent. But that was more a discussion of the party attempting to regulate the competition among state parties for and resultant number of debates. What Priebus and Hewitt talk about in their interview is something altogether different.  Hewitt even goes as far as framing the process as "mold[ing] the debates".

That is a much different proposition.

That is almost scripting debates, and truth be told, that is an even tougher goal to manufacture and regulate. The presidential election process already has scripted debates during the general election. No, those debates are not expressly scripted, but the candidates usually have a pretty good idea about what's coming in terms of the questions and have prepared for them. And still "accidents" happen. Ask Obama about Denver or McCain about his "that one" comment in 2008 or go on down the line about debate gaffes in the television era.

But the thing is, those moments really don't seem to drive the outcome of presidential elections.

And now the RNC appears to be proffering a series of hypotheses along these lines:
H1: Presidential primary debates create/drive up intra-party divisiveness.
H2: The media amplifies intra-party divisiveness.
H3: Intra-party divisiveness negatively affects that party's candidate in the general election.
All of these are reasonable hypotheses. They certainly merit some exploration. [And, mind you, the Democratic Party will also have to consider this very same issue in some way.] But they strike FHQ as incomplete if not ill-formed. All of this seems to hinge on the notion that these primary debates are creating an atmosphere that is not helpful to the national party's goal of nominating a candidate who can  in turn win the general election. Perhaps they are not helpful in that regard. Again, that is reasonable. But that also seems to gloss over several additional points or questions that are hugely important in all of this:
Q1: What if the intra-party divisiveness already exists?
Q2: What if it is not or has not been dormant or latent, but present all along?
Q3: Further, what if the very nature of the entire presidential primary process -- the battle to win contests, delegates and media attention -- is going to bring that divisiveness out with or without presidential primary debates? 
FHQ gets the intent of the media amplification hypotheses. But it seems to me that those things are going to come out (the media is going to amplify) anyway if they exist. Ron Paul supporters would have raised hell over the perception that a number of caucuses were handled unfairly, not to mention the treatment of their delegates in Tampa with or without debates. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich would have attacked Mitt Romney the very same way with or without those occasional national television platforms. And the media following along and reporting on the process would continue to have had the incentive to talk about those same divisions in the party -- divisions that also exist in the Republican caucuses on the Hill -- to the extent they were represented by voices (candidates) involved in the race. And they were represented. There were establishment/Tea Party/libertarian fault lines in the Republican Party before there were debates and there were always candidates who represented those constituencies.

The nomination process is a tough nut to crack for the national parties. There are a lot of moving parts involved (Debates are just one.), and the parties are constantly trying to define and regulate the best possible conditions ahead of time. Never an easy task. As I said above, the Democrats will likely examine this debates issue as well. I am hard-pressed to envision a scenario where it does not come up in the Rules and Bylaws Committee discussions. But the debates a factor that, while there is some hope for control (from the parties' perspectives), may not actually yield all that much benefit if the party is already divided.

FHQ is not saying that the RNC should not look into this issue; only that the benefits are not exactly clear. That said, the best way to test this is to change the rules and see how the process is impacted. But if the Obama presidency follows any kind of downward trajectory and/or the economy takes a turn for the worse over the next two to three years, the number and scope of Republican (or Democratic) primary debates won't matter a whole lot in 2016. That may even be true if the current conditions remain static in the interim.

Hat tip to David Drucker at Roll Call for passing this along.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2016 Rules: Penalizing Candidates for Participating in Unsanctioned Debates?

This idea has been floating around since the RNC Chairman Reince Priebus mentioned it to reporters during the RNC Winter Meetings in Charlotte in January. But now the idea of penalizing presidential candidates delegates for participating in primary debates not sanctioned by the Republican National Committee is making the rounds again in an item by Ramesh Ponnuru over at the National Review.

In my discussions with folks involved in the rules-making process in the RNC this debates/delegate penalty never came up. That is not to suggest that it has not come up or will not be pushed in some form at future RNC meetings. There is some sincere frustration over the perceived impact those primary debates had on the process within the party, but this seems more like an idea that is being floated more than a directive for change from the chairman.

That is the FHQ interpretation of it anyway. Here's why:

This is a tough [TOUGH] penalty to enforce. Again, that is not to say that it cannot be enforced, but it is something that is difficult to achieve. Functionally, it works more as a threat than an actual penalty. The Democratic Party had something similar on the books in 2008 (and 2012). The rule did not apply to debates. Rather, it was a penalty put in place to dissuade candidates from campaigning in states that violated the rules on timing. In 2008, that meant that none of the candidates could campaign in Florida and Michigan until the day after the primary in the violating state. If the candidates had campaigned in either state they would have lost any and all pledged delegates won in that primary (Rule 20.C.1.b).

But no candidate violated that rule. And that was probably fortunate for the DNC and its Rules and Bylaws Committee. Imagine if that question had been layered into the Clinton-Obama delegate fight in the waning days of primary season in 2008. [That threat also worked (or mainly worked) because Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina were in on it. Each collectively and effectively threatened the support for and to any candidates who campaigned in any states jumping the queue.]

Again, as in that 2008 case, it is easy to threaten to take away delegates from candidates, but tough to enforce without also potentially hurting the state parties, not to mention individual delegates, in the process. How does the national party identify which delegates get the axe? What is the percentage? How does the party account for the varying penalties that will occur based on different methods of delegate allocation? Furthermore, does would the RNC ultimately care? [The standing, yet unofficial, rule on the Republican side has always been to just leave it up to the states. But there has been an evolution to that since 2008. In other words, instead of "do what you want states" it is "these are the rules, do what you want/can states".]

Ultimately, this really is not a penalty on the candidates. Yes, the proposal targets them, but the reality is that this but the first step in how the RNC likely sees this playing out. As was the case with the Democrats in 2008, the likely intent is to in some way curb the incentives state parties and other groups have in scheduling these debates in the first place. If the state parties are rational, they will not want to hold/sponsor a debate if it means the party will potentially not have a full slate of candidates -- or at least the main competitors -- participate.

But what is the mechanism by which state parties or other groups acquire the RNC's blessing for holding a debate? Is there a mechanism at all or will early states (or perhaps competitive general election states) have the upper hand in planning and orchestrating such debates?

All we really have in Chairman Priebus' comments is the wisp of a plan. It is not fully fleshed out and as such is rife with unintended consequences.

FHQ should also mention one of the other talking points circulating in response to this already: That this is a rules change that seemingly advantages the supposed establishment candidate; something those in the grassroots and/or among the Tea Party would not necessarily be favorable toward. That response is apt, but focuses too heavily on the candidate-specific penalties instead of the state angle proffered above. Functionally, I think candidate angle is correct. A frontrunning establishment candidate is motivated to participate in as small a number of debates as possible. This just provides some institutional national party-based cover for that candidate or candidates. That, in turn, affects the calculus of those planning these debates in the first place. But again, that is the goal of this particular rule should it ever come to fruition.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 Debates: Vice Presidential Debate Open Thread

Tonight's vice presidential debate kicks off at 9pm (EST) from Centre College in Danville, KY. The format will be similar to last week's first presidential debate and will be hosted by ABC's Martha Raddatz. It really isn't any mystery as to what to look for tonight. The vice presidential nominees are typically more willing/freer to take the gloves off and play the attack dog role (...unless we're talking about the 2000 Cheney-Lieberman tilt). We'll see if Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan follow suit tonight.

The same rules apply as last week. Feel free to weigh in with comments and other observations in comments section. I'll pop over periodically respond, but I'll be most active on Twitter (@FHQ). Feel free to follow along there using the hashtag #fhqvpdebate.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2012 Debates: 1st Presidential Debate Open Thread

Tonight's debate from the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado will focus on issues from the domestic front. The forum will be divided into six 15 minute segments with pre-defined topic areas (the economy for three segments, health care, the role of government and governing) chosen by moderator Jim Lehrer.

Things kick off at 9:00pm, but feel free to weigh in with thoughts and other comments on what you are expecting and what is happening in real time in the comments section below. You can also follow along on Twitter by using the #fhqdebate hashtag.

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The Links (10/3/12): 2012 Debate Season

A couple of things to set the proper context for tonight's opening to debate season:

1) Tom Holbrook, indispensable as always, on the (limited) impact of debates over time.

1a) John Sides and Jon Bernstein also throw cold water on the idea of debates as game changing events in the campaign.

2) Emma Roller at NPR has another take.

[Eh, I'll side with the political scientist on this one.]

3) Alex Speigel had a nice story on question dodging in debates on Morning Edition this morning.

4) If you have the time before the debate tonight, the PBS documentary, Debating Our Destiny, is always a worthwhile view.

NOTE: FHQ will try to embed a Twitter conversation in a post for the debate this evening. I'll be most active over there, but will try to pull double duty and respond to any comments that may come up over here in response. If you are on Twitter either reply directly to one of my tweets and/or use the #fhqdebate hashtag to insure that your comment/response is included in the feed.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Debate Last Night

The debate that I moderated last night between the UGA College Republicans and Young Democrats was an interesting affair. We had the hall for 90 minutes and broke things down in to segments of about 8 minutes each (Well, they were supposed to have been 8 minutes each.). Both sides got two minutes to answer the question posed and that was followed up by about 2-4 minutes of cross talk. As I said yesterday, the intent was to split the event into equal parts foreign policy and domestic affairs. The guy who was moderating, though, was a bit liberal with the time allowed and let it get away from them more often than not. As a result most of the evening was spent discussing issues in the domestic sphere (...much to the chagrin of one of the College Republican panelists who also happened to be an international affairs major. All the moderator could say was, "What do you expect from an Americanist?").

I'll reproduce the question list below, but will tell you that we were able to cover immigration, candidate experience, redistribution of wealth, energy, education, the economy, Iran and checks and balances. I had planned to close by asking who each side thought would win nationally and in Georgia and why/how, but opted to close with the checks and balances question instead. The moderator in me overruled the political strategist on that final question as time waned. Plus, I was likely to have gotten partisan rather than thoughtful responses -- not that the two can't overlap -- which would have lacked any real entertainment value.

It was funny. As the crowd was filing in, I was sitting in the back of the hall going over my notes and got to hear some good lines. Two girls (I hate saying that, but saying college-aged women sounds kind of silly, though, perhaps more accurate.) were talking about how it was like a wedding, having to choose which side to sit on. I had already been thinking about this and, to me, there were more people opting for the left than the right. That seemed to be where the crowd was throughout the evening. Democratic one liners got a better response and edgy Republican comments were vocally derided. [I seriously considered jokingly leading off by revealing, in true moderator fashion, that the audience had been warned about vocal reactions, but thought better of it. There are only so many jokes you can fit in and I already had a Joe the Plumber reference.]

As to the debate itself, I'm sure everyone is interested in my opinion of who won. When my sister asked me this morning, I said me (...because I had not succumbed to stage fright beforehand. How like a politician: setting the bar low before an event.). In all seriousness, though, I think it is probably beyond my pay grade -- to borrow a phrase -- to call out students and critique them on their performances (I do enough of that already.). I thought both sides did well, but like any of the four debates we just witnessed, there was a fair amount of question dodging and reliance on stump speech material. But hey, if the people at the top do it, I can't begrudge any of the panelists for doing the same. [Heck, it wasn't like I was Jim Lehrer up there.] More than anything the night was about information and I'd like to think that the discussion that took place on stage helped to get some additional information out there to students at UGA.

But the evening was enjoyable and I appreciated the University Union contacting me and allowing me to participate.

Below are the questions I used (or would have used had we had more time or a more disciplined moderator). I was able to sneak Rob's socialism/liberalism and conservatism/libertarianism question into the discussion of redistribution. That one got set up better than I had hoped when one of the Republican panelists brought up not only socialism but went beyond that to invoke communism, even quoting Karl Marx. That led to a good exchange.

The only reason that I didn't get to use Daniel's was because it came in after I had already completed the set of questions for the night. That one is on me. I probably should have put a deadline in with the original call for questions.
Debate Questions
I Immigration
One issue that has been lost in the campaign this year is the issue of immigration. That is due in large part to the relative proximity of the two candidates on how to deal with it and McCain's divergence from some within the Republican Party. On the one side is the wall along the United States' southern border with Mexico and on the other is talk of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Where do John McCain and Barack Obama fit in on that spectrum and how will each deal with the issue over the course of the next four years?

II Experience
From some of the student questions I received, I saw that experience is still an issue that is on people's minds. Early on, this looked like a race that would potentially be shaped based on the age vs. experience question. Was McCain too old and did Obama lack the experience necessary to deal with the serious problems facing the nation. The Sarah Palin selection added a twist to this discussion, but is this still an issue and how will it affect each after January 20th?

III Redistribution/Socialism
This one comes to us from our good friend Joe the Plumber. Obviously, the McCain campaign has tried to make an issue – whether successful or not – of Obama's response about the idea of redistribution of wealth. At the heart of this is the divide between the two parties on how much and in what ways the federal government should intervene on economic issues. But what does this mean, a redistribution of wealth? What wealth and where will it be redistributed?

Since we're talking government intervention, I'd like to take a step back and talk a little about basic questions of ideology. I often run my 1101 students through the paces on ideology, but I think it would be instructive to give that discussion a potential real world application. To my friends on the right, what is the difference between a conservative and a libertarian? And to the folks on the left, what is the difference between a liberal and a socialist?

IV Energy
Whether its drill baby drill or adding new green collar jobs to our economy, alternative forms of energy are high on the lists of priorities of both John McCain and Barack Obama. What is the most cost-effective combination of these various ideas to deal with the United States' current energy problems.

V Education
I wanted to talk about something related to education. We are at an institution of higher learning after all. And I'd like to confine our discussion to that area. At least some of the folks in this room are facing student loan repayments when they are done at UGA and among the others there are HOPE scholarship recipients whose scholarships – and this may be something faced by future students more than those here in the hall tonight – may be threatened because of the rising cost of higher education. What are each of the major candidate's doing to address the issue of college affordability?

VI Economy
This question was posed to the candidates in all four debates this year and I don't know that the American people got a solid answer to it at any point during any of those affairs. However, I think that we may be able to come up with some ideas tonight. There's always a lot of promises in political campaigns, but in light of the current economic situation, what are some of the things that are most likely going to be on the cutting room floor once one of these two gentlemen assumes the office of the presidency?

VII Iran
Iran. Diplomacy or military intervention? There's been a lot of talk about conditions and pre-conditions for sitting down with certain world leaders, but obviously, the Islamic Republic's development of nuclear technology is a huge consideration in dealing with Iran. But what is the point of no return? At what point in that nation's nuclear development does it become necessary for military intervention to be seriously considered?

VIII Israel
I'm glad Israel came up in that last exchange/I'm surprised Israel didn't come up in that exchange because that is where I'd like to turn now. The Iran question is very much intertwined with the Israel question simply because of their ties to the Palestinians opposite the Israelis on the dispute over the territory in the Holy Land. What should the US role be in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute and how should that approach be tempered by the question of Iran's interest in the issue as well?

IX Trade
Charges of protectionism and unfair trade have been bandied about throughout this campaign – even stretching back to the primary contests in the winter and spring. What can be done to alter the trade regimes currently in place so that they successfully tread the line between the two extremes represented by the charges levied in this contest – protectionism and unfair trade?

X Humanitarian Intervention
The US military is stretched pretty much to its limit currently. Given that reality and its intersection with the economic downturn has the United States' ability to deal with current humanitarian crises and those that may arise in the future been compromised? Like a lot of things, this is a question of degrees. Under what circumstances is it necessary for the US to intervene to create some solution to humanitarian issues?

XI Checks and Balances
I wanted to end on a bit of a broad note. No matter who wins next week, the next president will have to deal with what is projected to be an overwhelming Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. 250 seats in the House and possibly a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate. If McCain wins how will he be able to govern effectively without a wholesale shift toward the left? And if Obama wins, what will he have to do to keep the various factions of the Democratic majority on the same page when dealing with the issues that face the nation?

XII Closing Question
Who is going to win both nationally and here in Georgia and why?

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Debate Tonight

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Debate Tonight

No, not that kind of debate. Obama's Wednesday night primetime affair is the only [scheduled] high-profile campaign event this week.

However, tonight FHQ is moderating a debate between the College Republicans and Young Democrats on campus here at UGA. [It isn't on the level of the Colbert Report, et al. but it is monumental enough that I taken to using the third person when describing my participation in it.] Anyway, I don't want to totally outsource the resposibility*, but I'd like to open it up here and see what kind of questions our readers and frequent contributors would like to see asked in such a context. If you're like me you submitted at least one hundred questions on MySpace in the hopes that one would be chosen for the town hall debate in Nashville earlier this month. But also like me, you were likely disappointed when one wasn't chosen. Well, now you have the opportunity to submit questions to a panel of partisans from each side of the aisle who aren't even "officially" representing either campaign. [Oh, I'm supposed to be convincing you to actually post questions.]

Here are the rules for submission:
1) There are two broad topic areas, foreign and domestic.
2) We are steering clear of social issues in an effort to tamp down the number of fist fights outside the hall this evening.
Other than that, everything else is fair game. But I will add one additional rule since our contributors tend to lean toward the left (though our readers may come from a broader range on the ideological spectrum):
3) No gotcha questions.
Though there won't be a live blog of the festivities, I'll have a wrap up post up in the morning (so you can see if your question was chosen.).

*I should note that there are student-submitted questions as well.

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The Electoral College Map (10/27/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/26/08)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live Blog and Open Thread: Final Presidential Debate

11:53pm: Well, I wanted to thank everyone for stopping by to read and comment tonight. Your participation is what makes FHQ fun. Thanks again.

Maybe Brian Williams misplaced that "boisterous" that he used to describe town hall debates following last week's rather tame affair between the two candidates. But I think it certainly applies to this one. Contrary to what we have typically seen from these sit-down debates, this one had some fireworks. What do you think, Joe the Plumber? Well, Joe has slipped into his Joe Sixpack cape and is off to fight for average Americans. The constant Joe refrain throughout was an interesting exchange. But the question of the hour: Who won? Honestly, I'm torn. The McCain offensive, to me, was a turn off early on, but after I got used to it, I took it all in stride. I spoke early on about whether McCain would receive a get out of jail free card on the going negative simply because it was perceived that he had to. But the answer to that question will have a large say in who actually won this one. If the attacks were normalized for everyone else, as they were in my case, then McCain may get the nod. If that's the case, though, does it change anything. Obama is seen as having the upper hand on domestic issues. Is it a blow to him if McCain was able to top him in friendly territory? And if it is, how much of a blow is it? I'm asking a lot of questions here, but this debate left many unanswered. I'll turn it over to the comments section for now. I may hang around and comment for a while, but I'd like to get the new electoral college map post out tonight. With Florida turning blue, it should offer some interesting analysis. Oh, now I'm trying to sell and hype myself simultaneously. This never ends well.

10:31pm: That is all. Well, "Good job, good job, good job, we did it" forcefully from McCain closes it. Let's see how long the McCain's hang around after this one. Of course it isn't the same as after a town hall debate.

10:29pm: Obama seems to be attempting to channel his inner-Bill Clinton in his closing remarks. It's the economy, stupid. McCain looks like he wants to offer a rebuttal to Obama on this.

10:28pm: McCain plays up the trust angle in his statements.

10:26pm: McCain ends the pre-closing statement portion on a snarky note. "There aren't enough vouchers," so we scrap the whole thing. "Got it."

10:26pm: Obama: "Senator McCain is absolutely right" returns in full force.

10:24pm: I'm guessing Obama lets the long since past McCain comments on abolishing the Department of Education pass. Perhaps that argument is being made in the Bizarro debate. That one is on C-SPAN2.

10:22pm: Obama agrees with McCain on charter schools and increased competition for public schools. But disagrees with McCain's stance on college accessibility and affordability. My student loans are listening.

10:20pm: More federal government involvement in education?

10:18pm: McCain: "It's the civil rights issue of the 21st century."

10:17pm: Question: Is declining education a national security issue?

10:16pm: Out of the troubled waters of abortion and on to education.

10:14pm: McCain is chomping at the bit to respond here at the same time Obama is trying to find common ground on this issue.

10:12pm: McCain rolls his eyes in response to Obama denying that he voted to deny care to these infants of failed abortions. Obama says there was another law on the books already dealing with that.

10:11pm: Ah, and now McCain brings up the present votes and one was on an abortion-related bill before the Illinois senate when Obama was there.

10:09pm: Obama thinks Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. Then he leans on the classic Democratic argument on the issue: choice.

10:07pm: When did Obama vote against Justice Breyer? Maybe it was a "present" vote, but I doubt it.

10:06pm: Alright, Roe v. Wade. Here we go. Supreme Court nominations. Litmus tests? McCain says no.

I apologize for skipping over the substance of that health care discussion, but there was a lot of good stuff in that exchange.

10:05pm: Awesome Freudian slip there from McCain. "Senator Government, uh, Senator Obama." High comedy.

10:04pm: Gold-plated Cadillac?

10:04pm: Welcome to the Joe Debate! Can we get this guy on stage, please?

10:01pm: I sincerely hope that Joe the Plumber is the same person as Joe Sixpack. I'll be disappointed if they aren't one in the same. But which one is the superhero name and which one is the mild-mannered reporter name. Well, I just answered that one. It would be mild-mannered plumber in this case.

10:00pm: Obama: "Here's your fine, Joe [the plumber]. Zero." McCain: "Zero?"

9:59pm: $5000 tax credit from McCain. Buy into the same coverage we get from Obama. Ah, McCain revisits the fines. Well, you knew that was coming.

9:58pm: McCain is smiling with a response to Obama seemingly at the ready. This has been more entertaining than the other debates, I'll say that.

9:56pm: On to health care.

9:55pm: "I just recited to you the benefits of that agreement." Was McCain talking to Obama or Schieffer on that one?

9:51pm: McCain goes after Obama on semantics. "He will look at -- did you get that -- look at off-shore drilling." And then he returns to free trade, stressing the Columbia agreement and Obama's not having been south of the border. Obama leans on the specifics and his understanding of the situation in response.

9:50pm: McCain has his pen out and ready for Obama's response to his line on unilaterally renegotiating NAFTA. Obama calls for a reexamination of these trade agreements.

9:48pm: How much in four years? Obama says those "bad" sources can be eliminated in ten years time.

9:47pm: New Question: Climate change and oil importation decreases. How much can you lower that level during your time in office. Canadian oil is fine, but Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil is not according to McCain.

9:46pm: McCain is all in. Angry or not, here I come. He honestly has nothing to lose here.

9:44pm: Is Palin qualified to be president? Obama: I'll leave it up to the American people. Translation: I'm not touching that one with a ten foot pole.

9:43pm: Sorry, I got interrupted during the Biden explanation. I'll watched that back later.

9:39pm: Moving on...

Question: People involved in either administration. Starting with the running mates.

9:36pm: ACORN has been a topic here recently. Obama flat-out denies any link between his campaign and the organization.

9:35pm: Obama is trying to work back to the issues. I don't know that this segment has helped either candidate. See, negative campaigning hurts both candidates. Oh, and McCain brings up both Bill Ayers and ACORN.

9:34pm: Yeah, this is silly now. Move on Schieffer.

9:31pm: Wow! We are definitely in the internet age. The "kill him" comments have come to the debates. I like this line of questioning, but I don't know that it necessarily have a place in a high-profile debate. I don't know. Maybe that's just a preference.

9:30pm: Are comparisons in ads the same as negative ads? That one from McCain is on thin ice.

9:28pm: "100% of your ads are negative, John." Obama does seem to take the high road here. He can afford to as the candidate in the lead. He also brushes off the town hall argument before moving on to the "turn the page" comments from the McCain campaign.

9:26pm: And here are the John Lewis comments. McCain was hurt by them and by Obama's lack of a repudiation. And on to the pledge to not opt out of public financing.

9:25pm: Ooh, negative campaigning question. McCain seems to think town halls would have cured it all. I don't think I follow. Seems pretty clear cut to me. The one behind in the polls has to go on the attack.

9:24pm: "I've opposed the Bush administration. I have the scars to prove it." And he calls out Obama on his statements about standing up to the leaders of his party.

9:20pm: Balance the budget? "Senator Obama, I am not president Bush. If you wanted to take him on you should have run four years ago." Indeed. Pursed lips from Obama. He recognizes the offensive from McCain but really doesn't seem to like it.

9:18pm: McCain is definitely on the offensive. Ooh, and there's the projector again. Jon Stewart just last night talked about Republicans not supporting McCain because he recycles (speeches). He's recycling the projector now. Oh, he's not alone.

9:17pm: Schieffer is after them on this one. Well, someone should answer these spending questions. Ah, there's the hatchet.
...from McCain? "Some people will call that a hatchet, then I'll get out the scalpel."

9:16pm: Profligate ways? Well, that went over Joe Sixpack's head.

9:15pm: Obama's up first. Pay-go elicits a smile from McCain. Are we going to work our way back to the scalpel/hatchet line? Third time's the charm they say.

9:14pm: New Question: Deficit adding. This will be good.

9:12pm: Is it me or is McCain playing with fire by continually jumping in on Obama? Or does he get the benefit of the doubt because he has to be on the offensive?

9:11pm: Redistributing the wealth. Is the class warfare argument going to work in this current environment? The McCain campaign has been going that route recently. The media won't let you hear because they're too focused on Bill Ayers. Obama is shaking his head at this. He seems moderately exasperated.

9:08pm: Is Joe the Plumber the real Joe Sixpack?

9:07pm: Schieffer: "Would you like to ask him a question?"
McCain: "Uh no."
Anecdote time.

9:06pm: Split screens are making it really difficult to follow. McCain is blinking like the next one will be his last. Very distracting. Maybe this is his way of attacking Obama.

9:04pm: I stand corrected...again. Split screens on C-SPAN. They listened to my request. This message brought to you by C-SPAN.

9:03pm: Wow! Who would have though? The economy leads us off.

9:00pm: We're about to get underway here.

7:46pm: Live from the Hofstra University annex in Athens, GA -- talk about distance learning -- it's the FHQ live blog of the third and final presidential debate of 2008. Three weeks from tonight the campaign will have been over for nearly a day -- assuming everything is on the up and up as far as recounts and the like are concerned -- and that means that after this evening we will have dipped into the teens for the numbers of days left. [I'm already nostalgic. Can we hit reset and do it all over again? I see a hand raised in the McCain section. Do I have a second? Seeing none, other than everyone here associated with the McCain campaign raising both hands, we'll move on.]

What can we expect tonight in New York? Well, dare I say McCain needs a game-changing performance? Nah. In fact, I pledge to avoid that word in all its derivatives this evening. To say that the Arizona senator has to alter the dynamic of the race at this point would be to utter one of the contenders for understatement of the year. For the second debate in a row, though, McCain is up against it because of the format. Tonight's debate is a sit down affair (It is this time, I swear.), and that makes McCain's efforts to go on the attack more difficult simply because of the conversational tone these types of debates take on.

We are a little more than an hour away, so let's sit back and prepare for our last go-round on the debate ride for 2008. I'll be back shortly. And once again, I'll be following the festivities on C-SPAN. I doubt they'll have split screen coverage during a sit down debate, but I'll start there in the hopes that they will.

Recent Posts:
Breaking: Florida to Turn Blue

The Electoral College Map (10/15/08)

How Big a Margin is Too Big to Make Up?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Live Blog and Open Thread: 2nd Presidential Debate: Town Hall Meeting

11:05pm: Folks, I'm off to plug in a few straggling polls to the data set for the electoral college. I'll be back mid-morning with an update. The comments section remains open, but I just don't think we witnessed anything tonight that is going to shake this race up in any noticeable way.

10:51pm: Obama is still working the room. Did McCain head off to a Palin-type rally like the Alaska governor attended after last week's vice presidential debate in St. Louis?

10:41pm: Wrap up. Well, if you were looking for a game changer, this wasn't it. I think McCain was certainly in his element tonight. But, in the end, he just didn't do enough to turn this thing around. I will say this: He did avoid the angry trap, but his trademark sarcasm reared its head a couple of times. Not to the extent that it did in those back and forths with Romney in the winter, but still it was there. McCain stressed a steady hand, and I thought Obama's performance was just that. Does a debate performance project White House success? Absolutely not, but that was an ironic twist to this: that Obama's performance was steady. McCain has left the building but Obama remains. He's talking with the guy who asked the Israel question now, the military vet. This is strange. Obama is still there working the crowd, but McCain has literally left the building. C-SPAN even found it necessary to come on and announce that they weren't following Obama around on purpose. Indeed.

10:37pm: Back on C-SPAN Brokaw's mike is still on. He is overheard saying, "You see what I was up against," no doubt referring to the timing issues that plagued this debate.

10:34pm: McCain has the last word and stresses the need for a steady hand. Both candidates block Brokaw's teleprompter trying to shake hands as the moderator tries to wrap things up. A light moment to end the debate; an otherwise tame affair. Brian Williams just called past town halls "boisterous." This one didn't pass that bar. I assume he was referring to 1992 or the infamous "chest bump" debate of 2000. Well, that's what George W. Bush thought Gore might do. If you haven't seen it, google, "Debating Our Destiny" and watch PBS's documentary on past debates. What am I? I'm the blogger here. Above is that link.

10:29pm: Last question: "What don't you know and how will you learn it?" Obama treats it like a closing statement and leans on the biographical section of his stump speech, stressing opportunity and change. McCain asks what will happen here and abroad? Read: Obama is a risky choice. And he, too, moves into the biography segment of his stump speech. But at least he sort of answered the question.

10:25pm: From the audience: If Iran attacks Israel will you commit troops to defend them? McCain: Pressure Iran with joint sanctions from the Allies. Obama: Focuses on a nuclear Iran. But says military options are not off the table. But he doesn't specify whether he's talking about the questioner's particular hypothetical.

10:23pm: Brokaw: Is Russia still the Evil Empire under Putin? McCain: Maybe. Can't say yes or no. A pretty good answer.

10:19pm: On to Russia. Again with the KGB Putin line? Alliances against Russia sounds a bit like the Cold War. Obama: Protecting former Soviet satellites is important. Was Poland a Soviet satellite? Now, it was under communist control, but was it a satellite?

10:18pm: A lot has been made of Obama saying, "he's absolutely right" about McCain in the first debate, but Obama McCain just said Obama was right on Afghanistan.

10:16pm: And now a Brokaw follow up. This time on Afghanistan. "Briefly, if you can," Brokaw adds. British commander: an acceptable dictator. Obama stresses democracy.

10:13pm: And we're bending the rules now on time. A follow up. Obama asks for one and McCain calls for equal time. Obama goes after McCain on "Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran," as an example of McCain not "speaking softy and carrying a big stick." This bickering is not a positive here. Who will get the blame if this is a highlight of the debate? Obama asked for the follow up, but McCain gets the last word.

10:10pm: McCain has two heroes. First, Reagan and now Teddy Roosevelt. And he moves into an attack on Obama announcing he'd attack Pakistan. Like the first debate, "I've been there." This time to Waziristan.

10:08pm: Ooh, Pakistan. And it cuts right to the heart of an Obama statement on going in to get terrorists there. This should be good.

10:06pm: McCain is going the experience route here. Calling for a steady hand and judgment and that Obama is a risk for decisions like the withdrawal call, pre-surge.

10:04pm: Brokaw: Let's see if we can figure out the Obama doctrine or the McCain doctrine.

...for intervening in humanitarian causes when US security is not at stake.

10:00pm: Keeping the world peace. Does the economic situation affect the US's ability to do this? Well, Obama doesn't understand foreign policy according to McCain. "We don't have time for on the job training." Obama admits he doesn't understand.

...why the US invaded a country that wasn't a part of 9-11. Clever. Also clever? Pivoting to the amount of money being spent in Iraq and how that affects the US domestically.

9:58pm: In my best Dwight Schrutte voice: Question. Why is it Sarah Palin was made fun of on SNL the other night for cutting off the Gs on -ing words in last week's debate? Obama does it too. I may have answered my question already. Ha!

9:55pm: Health care, privilege, right or responsibility? McCain leans toward people having the freedom to choose what they want. Obama says it is a right.

9:53pm: McCain plays the "He will fine you" game. Arizona and Tennessee are neighbors now? "If you cross over the state line" and like what's offered in Arizona and not Tennessee...

9:50pm: Next question: health care coverage and costs. I crunched numbers all weekend, but I got to catch enough of the news to catch this "He giveth with one hand and taketh with the other" line from Obama on what he calls McCain's plan to tax this stuff.

9:48pm: "You know who voted for that. That one," motioning to Obama. Oh, and it was a Bush plan on an energy bill loaded with goodies. That "that one" part will be analyzed later in the MSM. This all sounds like Senate inside baseball to me.

9:47pm: Brokaw again on the time issue. This will be a long one. They have to make up for not doing a series of these over the summer, right?

9:46pm: But Obama also goes after McCain on drilling.

9:44pm: On to climate change. In this corner, nuclear. McCain has been on a ship with nuclear power and insists it is safe. In that corner, opportunity. Obama touts green jobs.

9:42pm: McCain is energized and sharp here in referring back to one of the earlier questioners.

9:40pm: "It's not that hard to fix Social Security," says McCain. Of course that followed, "I'll answer the question." Ah, another commission to solve problems.

9:37pm: Second internet question? Entitlements (social security and Medicare). Brokaw adds to the question by asking if action is possible within two years. Obama doesn't sign on to the two year thing, but does say he will address it in his first term. He had better hope the Democrats retain control of Congress in 2010 if he wins. Otherwise the first term thing will be tough. It will be even if the Dems hold control in 2010, perhaps.

9:35pm: Has McCain not learned from his Republican primary debates? That sarcasm never served him well. Obama is now proposing a tax increase and is a protectionist. Well, we'll get to that McCain promises.

9:30pm: Obama uses 9-11 to talk about a call to service in the US. Who bet on Obama bringing up 9-11 first? Whoever it was is not in the midst of an economic crisis anymore.

9:28pm: Ooh, the first internet question.

...from a 78 year old. Awesome!

Again with the projector. By the end of the night this will be the most famous planetarium projector in the world. This planetarium will be well off after this.

9:27pm: Alright. No split screens on C-SPAN. I'm off to HD land.

9:25pm: McCain gets the first crack at the first year priorities follow up for discussion time. He goes with energy and health care. Obama? Energy? Check. That one's tops. And education. And "our records"? Obama pivots to a discussion on taxes. I think he's gone over a minute here. Brokaw thinks so too.

9:22pm: "Most liberal big spender." Now there it is. I really thought Palin would be the one to do it, but hey here it is. And examples: a projector for a Chicago planetarium.

9:21pm: Scratch that. Cynicism is alright. McCain used it too. Maybe I'm too PC. Uh oh.

9:20pm: Twenty minutes in, I've got to say both candidates like this format.

9:18pm: How can we trust either of you to deal with the economy? Obama wades into the firestorm first. "I understand your frustration and cynicism." I would have steered clear of that last one. But I'm typing on a computer now, not in front of those folks.

9:16pm: Worse before it gets better? Obama says no and that revamping the regulation regime is a must. McCain? "Depends on what we do." Clever way to bring up this "risky choice argument" that the McCain campaign has been making about Obama.

9:14pm: Obama lets it go to directly address the questioner. Or not. Here comes Obama's side on the Fannie/Freddie charge from McCain. "I need to correct" McCain..."not surprisingly." Not surprisingly, Obama touts the deregulation charge. And we've traded barbs on Fannie/Freddie. McCain's lobbyist consultants have ties as well.

9:12pm: I'll be interested to see if Obama responds to McCain bring up the campaign suspension. Obama and his cronies? Obama is smiling.

9:10pm: There may be a dead horse in the room in Nashville. This "fundamentals" thing has been run into the ground. But hey, for good reason, it could be argued.

9:08pm: How are you not able to answer that question (on who to choose to replace Paulson in the Treasury)? And if not answer it, at least not pause like that. Meg Whitman? Isn't she going to run for governor in California?

9:08pm: Stylistically McCain is already in his element on this first question.

9:06pm: McCain subtly (or not so subtly) jabs at Obama for not appearing at any town halls over the summer.

9:03pm: Good start for McCain. He looked at Obama when he shook his hand. Check that one off the list. I'm looking at you MSM.

9:01pm: And we're off!

8:29pm: Alright folks, we are just a little over half an hour away from showtime in Nashville. [No, I'm not there.] I've been asked several times since the VP debate Thursday night if I thought we would see a "different" McCain at tonight's debate. I have no idea and I certainly don't think that it will be "angry" McCain if he does try to roll out -- Al Gore style, mind you -- an alternate debate persona. However, one thing McCain must do is find a way to shift this race in some meaningful way toward him. But with Obama up in the polls, McCain is back in the role of underdog (not that he wasn't there during the first debate) and that is a role he has relished in his time running for president. For Obama, the mantra is "steady as she goes," but with an audience asking questions the dynamic may be a bit different. One thing to keep in mind about tonight's proceedings is that there are no follow up questions from the audience or the moderator. I'm assuming that includes that candidates as well.

My goal? I'll be trying to extend my streak of non-booing live blogs to two (I kid, CBSmith.). I may even try to embed some of the footage here to go along with my comments. We'll see if I can actually pull that off. As always, I'll be watching on C-SPAN. I doubt we'll be getting the full time split screen in the town hall format. [I also doubt I'll be getting that royalty check from C-SPAN.]

Also, feel free to follow along and drop comments along the way.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/7/08), Part II: The Changes

The Electoral College Map (10/7/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/6/08)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Live Blog and Open Thread: The Vice Presidential Debate

10:40pm: Oh, Gwen Ifill is on crutches heading out of the hall (on C-SPAN). Not that it matters, but that is something I've never seen. I always thought presidential debate moderators were invincible. Another childhood dream shattered.

10:34pm: That's all folks. An interesting debate. Palin played it folksy and certainly surpassed the extremely low bar that had been set for her. Biden avoided all the potential pitfalls. [I think. I did briefly catch something about a wink at some point in The Fix's twittering of the proceedings. I'll have to investigate that. Update: The wink was from Palin early on apparently. Now I'm going to have to go to the tape.] But I don't really think this one changed anything. There was no train wreck (Palin bumbling through answers or Biden saying something he shouldn't have.) and no one really provided a wow performance. Thoughts?

10:31pm: I'm starting to see Tina Fey doing those poses while Hillary Clinton/Amy Poehler spoke in that SNL sketch. She's looking off in to the audience and smiling. Meanwhile Biden is wrapping up trying to hit all the points here from the middle class to the troops abroad.

10:29pm: The media is out to get Palin. She's unfiltered here though, she adds.

10:27pm: Change the tone of Washington? Hey, a Jesse Helms reference from Biden. He learned not to question other senator's motives. Palin attempts to tie herself to Biden and McCain by talking about doing similar things in an attempt to isolate Obama.

10:24pm: Last question: Changing positions based on circumstances. Biden: judicial nominations and ideology. Palin: "Quasi-caving?" Ooh, I wouldn't have used that language. But I probably wouldn't be up there. But this is a broad answer that doesn't really say anything.

10:22pm: Honestly, I'm shocked we have not heard the L word this whole time. I really thought we'd hear "maverick" and "most liberal" mentioned an awful lot tonight. Well, one out of two ain't bad.

10:20pm: Discipline? Biden's weakest trait. He counters it may be his passion. That one falls flat and even elicits uneasy laughter from the audience. He rebounds well by going into his biography.

10:18pm: Palin on gubernatorial experience and her experience generally: Alaska is a huge state? Well, in terms of area perhaps. It ain't California, though.

10:16pm: Palin from tripping over Supreme Court questions with Couric to answering constitutional questions on her potential position as VP. Biden calls Cheney dangerous and gets into specifics of Article I. Different definitions on display here. Legislative role for VP? Biden says only to break ties.

10:11pm: "Say it ain't so, Joe" Palin on Biden looking back at Bush policy and attacking them.

10:03pm: Palin's very authentic in talking about her outsider status in response to Biden's discussion of Bosnia and Darfur. And she moves effortlessly into her talking points. But what we have on display is not age versus experience but outsider versus insider and there is some overlap between the two.

10:02pm: Bosniacs? I'm not familiar with that ethnic group, Joe. Oh, can I call you Joe?

10:00pm: Palin is forcefully talking to Biden on the tactics/strategy in Afghanistan. Biden stumbles getting out of the blocks in response.

9:56pm: We are about an hour in. This is a good debate. More entertaining than the one the other night, but I still don't see it as a game changer. Palin is doing well, but not enough to sway a significant portion of those 34% of voters who think that this debate is consequential to their vote decision.

9:54pm: Oh, good line of attack from Palin. [And I'm paraphrasing to borrow a phrase from Biden tonight.] "For a ticket focused on change, you sure are focused on looking to the past and attacking the Bush administration."

9:51pm: On to Israel. Palin supports a two state solution. Biden thinks the Bush administration has been way off on Israel. Wrong on everything from Hezbollah and Lebanon to Hamas in the West Bank.

9:48pm: I love that we now refer to the leadership in Cuba as the Castro brothers. It sounds like a band. A communist, America-hating band, but a band nonetheless.

9:47pm: Iran and Pakistan? Biden pivots to Afghanistan and the Democrats' definition of the central front on terrorism.

9:44pm: And now on to funding of the troops. Barack Obama hasn't according to Palin and Biden still doesn't think McCain understands what's going on.

9:42pm: "
We will end this war!" Biden.

Palin, after an awkward pause: "Your plan is a white flag of surrender."

And on to foreign policy. How about the surge? Palin takes the McCain line. Biden: "With all due respect, I didn't hear a plan." Shifting response to the Iraqis.

9:38pm: Palin: the traditional definition of marriage. Biden: the traditional definition of marriage. Hey, agreement can happen.

9:36pm: Ah, (non-economic) domestic issues. Why not bring up a wedge issue first? How about gay marriage couched in terms of what is happening in Alaska with benefits for gay couples.

9:34pm: And Palin corrects Biden on the "Drill, baby, drill" chant. She's awfully good in a debate format. Interviews maybe not. But she's warmed up tonight.

Ooh, Biden brought up clean coal. Palin is writing notes on that one. Here she goes.

"If you don't understand the problem, you can't come up with a solution." Biden on the differences in the two tickets' approaches to the climate change issue.

9:27pm: "Toxic waste on Main St. is affecting Wall St. ." She flip-flopped that line. Not that she has lines.

9:25pm: If you aren't watching the full time split screens on C-SPAN, you are missing half the debate. The reactions are classic. And no, I don't work for C-SPAN, nor are they paying me.

9:21pm: Biden: "I call that the ultimate bridge to nowhere."

9:18pm: This is right where this debate is, both internally and externally: This tax discussion is about Reagan era, small government ideals versus a governmental role assisting citizens. Is the pendulum swinging back on this one? Public opinion on this government bailout sure is low.

9:14pm: Palin's good. Her debating style will play well in Peoria. The nerves are gone and she's warmed up.

...enough to get cut off by Gwen Ifill.

9:10pm: Palin apparently got the memo on the eye contact thing. She's trained on the cameras but she's already looked at Biden in rebuttal to his discussion of McCain's "fundamentals".

9:08pm: And there's the rebuttal to McCain voting 90% of the time with the Bush administrator line. "Obama has voted along party lines 96% of the time."

9:07pm: Biden is in attack mode.

9:06pm: Palin seems slightly nervous. Playing up John McCain and hasn't moved into the attack dog role. Ah, it's the first question.

9:04pm: Huh? The economy? I'm shocked this was the first lead question. Biden's off first and he's pointing out deregulation already.

9:03pm: "Can I call you Joe?" Nice, folksy icebreaker from Palin.

8:58pm: C-SPAN is showing podiums and unless Biden and Palin are sitting on them, I'd say this one will follow the presidential debate on Friday as a stand-behind-the-podium deal.

8:43pm: Here's a note on the format tonight (Yes, I think I've got it right this time.). From the Commission on Presidential Debates:
Vice presidential debate: all topics, moderated by Gwen Ifill
Thursday, October 2, Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

-Ninety-second answers, followed by two-minute discussion for each question. Two-minute closing statements.
I couldn't glean from the press release whether this is a stand up or sit down debate. We'll know shortly.

8:24pm: Incidentally, I'll be watching the debate tonight on C-SPAN. Hopefully they don't pull the ol' switcheroo on me like the did last week when the presidential debate was on C-SPAN2 -- a channel FHQ does not have access to -- and left me scrambling at the last minute to find any channel in time. Anyway, C-SPAN does have a nice resource in their Debate Hub, which will not only be streaming things live tonight, but has some nice features as well.

7:10pm: We are t-minus one hour and fifty minutes until go time at the vice presidential debate in St. Louis. I'm going on record now -- and I may hate myself in the morning because of it -- to say that this debate will be watched by a greater audience than the first presidential debate last Friday night. It is a classic Howard Stern scenario. People are tuning in for two completely polar opposite reasons. Either potential viewers like Sarah Palin and want to see her do well or they can't stand her and are awaiting the train wreck. Regardless, Joe Biden seems almost ancillary to tonight's debate (...unless he puts his foot in his mouth in a major way.).

And that brings us to the goals for each candidate tonight.

Biden simply needs to avoid the George Bush (circa 1984) trap and continue his convention attack on McCain.

For Palin, the bar has been lowered significantly by a few rocky interviews and the fact that the moderator, Gwen Ifill, has a forthcoming book about politics and race post-Obama.

For me, I'm trying to make it through one of these things without being booed again. But I digress...

Tonight should be fun and while you're waiting for the festivities to begin, why not interview Sarah Palin yourself? Thanks to the folks at the Princeton Election Consortium for the link.

Recent Posts:
Where is McCain Playing Offense Now that Michigan is Off the Table?

Is the Obama Campaign Planning for This Contingency?

Cracking the Muhlenberg Code

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is McCain Right? Does a Tie Go to the Runner?

"I was a little disappointed the media called it a tie, but I think that means when they call it a tie that means we win."
--John McCain

I may be a little late on this, but I thought I'd gauge the perceptions out there on this quotation. If you assume that a runner is an underdog and/or someone having to play offense, is that a win for the Arizona senator?

Here's what we know:
1) Last week was bad for McCain.
Effect: potentially lowered expectations

2) Foreign policy is supposed to be McCain's area.
Effect: Expectations were relatively high.

3) McCain played the experience/understanding card all night, but Obama was able to counter that by simply holding his own on the debate stage.
Effect: Well, that's where the tie comes in.

So, does McCain win in a draw scenario? More importantly, what happens if the McCain-Obama debates continue to be draws? That last one may or may not be obvious, but feel free to discuss while I update the electoral college map to reflect the changes brought about by yesterday's handful of polls.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/28/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/27/08)

Open Thread: First 2008 Presidential Debate

Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Thread: First 2008 Presidential Debate

10:39pm: Alright, I'm retreating to the Electoral College lair to think about this one for a while.

10:37pm: And there's the handshake. That's a wrap.

10:34pm: McCain: Obama's stubbornness on the surge is akin to the Bush administration on other issues. I'm surprised that "he doesn't get it" hasn't made an appearance tonight...from either side.

10:33pm: Obama: Economic crisis is a national security issue.

10:32pm: Ooh, extra time.

10:31pm: I've been thinking about calling this a forgettable debate, but the Obama doesn't understand stuff proves that if you say something enough...

10:27pm: I'm not sure about this "reaching across the aisle" stuff from McCain. Have the last few days taught us nothing? What will he be able to reach across the aisle to do if he's elected?

10:25pm: Last question. Let's put it this way: There won't be a lot of back and forth on this one.

10:22pm: Obama from Russian oil fueling their government to alternative energy here in the US.

10:18pm: McCain continues to play the experience card. Now on Russia. Again, "I've been there," on Georgia.

10:12pm: "I'm not going to set the White House schedule. I don't even have a seal yet." Good one.

10:09pm: Is Obama's ability to pronounce these foreign names a good thing or a bad thing?
Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. It is an interesting contrast between the two candidates, especially after McCain's issues getting Ahmadinejad out. How does that play into the Obama is a Muslim narrative.

10:08pm: Sitting down with leaders without pre-conditions. There's a blast from the past.

10:03pm: On to Iran.

10:00pm: Ugh, if you are going to add a personal story, you better know the name. McCain nailed his. Sure, it was the same one he's brought up in his acceptance speech, but still. Obama did not.

9:57pm: I think this not understanding thing has been talked about within the McCain campaign. Now on Pakistan, pre-Musharraf.

9:54pm: More on Obama not understanding from McCain. This time on Waziristan and Al Qeada.

9:45pm: McCain: "Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy." That one could bring some fireworks along the way.

9:40pm: McCain's on firmer ground on the surge.

On Guantanamo Bay? Mr. McCain, John Kerry is on the phone. He was against torture, before he was against for it.

9:34pm: Jim Lehrer is winning this debate so far. He's by far the most animated.

...trying to get either candidate to answer a question on scaled back spending in the face of the current economic climate.

9:33pm: "Using a hatchet where a scalpel is needed." A good line from Obama on a government spending freeze.

9:29pm: Ah, there's the first "most liberal senator" mention.

9:26pm: They've both warmed to this format now.

A lot of hand-raising from Obama on these McCain points on earmarks. Not Horshack-style hand-raising, but there's a pattern here on these split screens.

9:16 pm: Ooh, there's the first split screen (...on NBC). No sighing, no eye-rolling, just McCain writing at the moment.

Jim Lehrer is trying to turn this into a town hall meeting-lite. This is kind of weird. But the difference from four years ago is stark.

Shredding regulations. We may be hearing that lot from Obama. That's twice.

We are about fifteen minutes from go-time everyone. Elton John would have us believe that Saturday night's alright for fighting. We'll Friday night is fine by me, actually. And given the events of this week, we could see a real good one tonight.

First a quick review:
1) First debates are the most watched debates of any cycle.

2) Sit down debates are typically boring, highlighted by muted body language. Think Cheney-Lieberman. Well, that's an exaggeration.
Those look like podiums. I stand corrected.

3) If we can, let's try to get a variety to mediums represented here. Someone on C-SPAN, someone on the one of the major networks, someone online, etc. The first debate in 2004 had some different feeds floating around. C-SPAN had the non-speaking candidate's reactions at times, while most of the networks kept the camera trained on the speaker. The result was that people took away different impressions of the debate. Let's try to keep tabs on that tonight. I think I'm going to be on C-SPAN.

So we should have a lot of bored people watching tonight. I won't be one of them. So, turn on the set, open up a comment box and off we go.

Recent Posts:
Who You Callin' Underpolled?

Nothing to see here, folks.

The Electoral College Map (9/26/08)