Musings —10.16.2012 12:51 PM—
I have two columns in today’s Sun, which I actually forgot (it’s been kind of hectic). Here’s the other one:
Before this year, only two presidential debates changed the outcome.
In 1960, Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy were tied in the Gallup. The result of the election was uncertain.
Until the debate, that is. Nixon was sweaty, grim-faced and unappealing. Kennedy was young, handsome and cool. After the debate, JFK took the lead and went on to win the presidency.
The next time a presidential debate mattered — really mattered — was in 2000. In that race, Al Gore had been significantly ahead of George W. Bush in a series of public opinion polls.
The presidential debates changed all that. In the first, Gore exaggerated his accomplishments and repeatedly showed impatience with the folksy, aw-shucks approach of Bush. In the spin room afterwards, GOP staff brilliantly characterized the Democrat’s performance: “He sighed and he lied.” Gore dropped. He dropped yet again when he appeared in a subsequent debate with makeup that was undeniably orange. And he again came across as pompous and phony. He lost.
On Tuesday night’s debate, everything rides. Obama’s appallingly bad performance in the first encounter — and Romney’s startlingly solid turn — erased the president’s comfortable lead. The keys to the White House are now anyone’s to win. I have prepared premiers, and a prime minister, for TV debates. In every case, I have given them the same three pieces of advice.