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The Presidential Debates are going to be Unawsome

Updated on October 1, 2012

On Wednesday, two men will have a chance to define their political destinies. The nation, and probably the rest of the world as well, will be watching. More importantly, the media will be watching. Obama and Romney will be watching each other, but not in a warm-hearted, we are best friends kind of way. Instead, try to think of each man as a bloodthirsty wolverine, circling each other, poised to go for the throat. In effect, both men, the President and his challenger, will be trying hard to do the other in. For, in Presidential Debates, the climax of a long struggle begins. It is showtime in America.

Feeling tense yet? Well, don't. You see, Presidential debates are the most hyped up things on the planet, or at least in American politics. The first debate is the "do or die" moment for Romney, so everyone says. Obama must "hold his own" in the first debate, or risk losing the election, because the 47 percent of people Romney thinks are voting for him will be turned off by Obama's arrogant tone. In reality, debates have little effect on the outcomes of campaigns. Take this first debate, on Wednesday night, as an example. It will deal with the economy, and is set to last 90 minutes. Most of the projected 20 million viewers will watch the first 40 minutes of the debate, and then wonder when the blasted thing is supposed to end.

None of this is supposed to underscore the importance of the debates. Undecided voters will get to hear the candidates explain themselves and their policies. Partisans on both the Left and the Right will hear their preferred candidate present their best face to the world. All will finally have a chance to compare Obama and Romney without even having to change channels or do boring research online. We get it. Debates are important, and we will have a great time, before and after, analyzing them as only Americans can analyze (that is, grab a beer, sit down with a buddy from the "other" side and argue politics all night long).

But Presidential debates do not actually have an excellent track record of deciding the outcome, and both Democrats and Republicans have ample proof of this. Obama may have come off as arrogant and condescending when he told Hillary Clinton "you're likeable enough" in a now infamous debate. In the 1976 Presidential debates, Jimmy Carter was unprepared for Round One, and it showed in his responses. Still, he coasted to the White House. Micheal Dukakis had a bad moment in the 1988 debates, when he was asked what he would do if his wife were raped, and he showed little emotion. In the end, his own advertisements did him in, particularly one with a helmet and a tank...

George H.W. Bush had his "Looking at my watch" moment, and Al Gore sighed audibly in the 2000 debates. Alternatively, John Kerry excelled in 2004, Bill Clinton charmed half the country in his debates and Barack Obama made the 2008 debates useful by directing his responses to independents. Looking at these examples, it seems a bit much to assume that debates help or hurt candidates. The only debate to truly decide the outcome of an election was the first one; the 1960 debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

The 1960 debates have reached mythic proportions. Richard Nixon suffered from his performance, John Kennedy benefited from his. To the media, every year is 1960 all over again, and every debate is all important. Don't fall into this trap.

The debates will be what we all expect them to be. There is little possibility that the upcoming debate will have much of an impact, beyond any three day gaffs. There are very few undecided voters left, and those that are undecided might not even vote. Everyone has fixed perceptions of the current candidates, and those will not be changed in 90 minutes.

Here are our choices.

Obama "Squaring the circle."
Obama "Squaring the circle."
Healthcare was always going to come back to bite him...
Healthcare was always going to come back to bite him...

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    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 5 years ago from US of A

      You're right about one thing...the die hards on both sides will not be swayed by the upcoming debates. But I do believe that the debates will have its greatest impact on the fence sitters. But because of the stark difference in each of the candidates' philosophies and beliefs, there might not be that many undecideds out there. Seriously, if you are still undecided, you have to be sleeping...so wake up. The last four years have shown what the big O can do. If you aren't happy with it, then it's time to vote for someone who actually had business experience. We don't need to give Obama another four years of on-the-job training.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

      I could not agree more.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      The formats of the debates is the problem.

      The second debate is the town meeting, and that is ridiculous to think that it would represent the question of the people at large.

      I would suggest that six, fifteen minute discussions really don't probe deep enough to be meaningful.

      It would be more meaningful if the first debate just took the ad from the previous month and had the candidates argue them.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

      You've said it quite wll. These debates will be nothing more that fodder for the media outlets. They will give us nothing of substance. Nice job.