In a widely discussed article on Politico, Alan Schroeder, author of Presidential Debates: Fifty Years of High-Risk TV, assess the stylistic strengths and weaknesses of each candidate when it comes to debating.
Even with the status of tonight’s debate in doubt (see Schroeder’s post on McCain’s decision to possibly postpone the debate), we thought we’d highlight some of Schroeder’s key points:
* McCain’s Strengths: Deft television performer, who comes across as a good listener and whose comedic instincts are organic, not the product of coaches or gag writers. However, McCain’s reputation for candidness, which has been a strength from him, has been frittered away as the campaign has proceeded.
* McCain’s Weaknesses: In addition to no longer being seen as a “straight-talker,” McCain often looks old and unengaged on camera. Despite this, Schroeder argues, McCain has a quality that makes audiences willing to listen.
* Obama’s Strengths: He looks crisp, cool, and commanding on camera which plays very well to audiences watching at home
* Obama’s Weaknesses: Obama fails to seize on opportunities that allow him to better define his position or build on his strengths. While Obama is usually very solid in debates he lacks a certain razzle-dazzle necessary in debates, which often function as political theater. Finally, Obama needs to recognize that the debate will quickly be reduced by the media and voters into sound bites and Youtube clips—he needs to sound a little less professorial.