What to expect from the debate?

I have no idea.

Seriously.

Okay, kind of.  Here’s the thing, it is so obvious what Trump needs to do.  John Dickerson laid it out during a recent Gabfest and Seth Masket quotes:

Yet over at Slate’s Political Gabfest, John Dickerson reminds us that quite a few voters will not be watching the debate as it airs, but will depend upon news coverage of it, which will largely boil down to a few key moments. He offered some suggestions as to how Trump could exploit that feature to change voters’ perceptions:

You should do all the things that people said you have not done. Be self-deprecating, be generous. Show some set of qualities that nobody’s ever associated with you throughout this entire campaign. And if you show them, you will get 100 million people watching, and all the coverage will be about that…. Do that, and you’ll get several days of: “Oh my gosh, look, he can restrain his impulses. Hecan fulfill the role that’s being asked of him. And if he can do that in a debate, he can do that in the presidency.”

That could change the campaign somewhat. But it’s dependent upon Trump’s own discipline as a campaigner, something that’s not really been detected in abundance. Just as that scenario could benefit him, so a lapse into misogynistic slurs could hurt him, and we know he’s prone to that.

Yes.  That’s what scares the hell out of me.  Trump being given a stupidly low bar, and easily exceeding it.  Also, Ezra:

This is the Donald Trump curve. Hillary Clinton needs to answer every question perfectly and make people laugh while she does it. Trump needs to stop lying and bragging so much. It defies parody. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. [emphases mine]

MSNBC is simply echoing the conventional wisdom. Clinton “faces higher expectations than Donald Trump when the two square off for the first debate on Long Island,” reports Politico. This is the conclusion of Politico’s “insiders poll,” which surveys a select group of political elites. The responses — Politico provides anonymity to participants in the survey — are darkly comic.

“To win the debate, all Trump really needs to do is meet expectations, keep his cool, and look presidential,” says one Republican.

A Democrat adds: “The question we are all waiting to have answered is: Can he be serious? Can he answer questions directly? How will he react (or overreact) when he is directly challenged? Can he control his temper?”

So here is where I think we are on the morning of the first presidential debate. For Hillary Clinton to win the debate, she needs to be perfect. For Donald Trump to win the debate, he needs to avoid embarrassing himself.

Do you see the problem?

So, there you go.  But, I think is is very much an open question whether Donald Trump can even pull this off.   I strongly suspect Hillary Clinton will perform well (though, not perfect).  She’s good at these and she’s had plenty of one-on-one debates.  Trump has pretty much never done this and not seen particularly adept at curbing his worse instincts in the moment.

So, I cannot wait to see what happens.  But, I’m horrified that if Trump meets this minimally low bar he will be rewarded with media coverage on a severe curve.

And, because I don’t have any more time to blog today, Drum with a reminder on what happened to Gore in 2000.

Wow. Gore kicked ass! Bush kept sniffing! He also seemed a little lost—a fairly common real-time assessment. As it turns out, Cooper’s prediction was pretty close: Gallup’s overnight poll had Gore winning by 48-41 percent and others gave him an even bigger margin. So why is Gore widely remembered as the big loser in that debate? Here is Alfredo Lanier of the Chicago Tribune a couple of weeks after the debate:

Polls scored both candidates just about even, but that shifted after media analysts picked over the inconsistencies in some of Gore’s statements—and nitpicked about his annoying huffing, puffing and eye-rolling while Bush spoke. [emphasis in original]

Among people who actually watched the debate, Gore seemed fine. He knew his stuff, he attacked without seeming mean, and no one seemed to notice any sighing. But then the analysts put together a mix tape of every one of Gore’s sighs, and it was game over. Gore was a laughingstock.

Overnight polls are hardly infallible. But there’s not much question that the media reaction in the two or three days after a debate can make a big difference. Gore won the first debate in 2000, but only for a few hours. He lost it in the following week.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to What to expect from the debate?

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    . “Gore won the first debate in 2000, but only for a few hours. He lost it in the following week”.
    And look what we got – the worst foreign policy action in American history fueled by lies.
    Thanks, media.

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