What to watch for in “what to watch for” columns

What follows is a handy guide to help get the most out of today’s tidal wave of “What to watch for during the debate” columns, press releases, and blog posts:
1.    A short (or long) history of debates.
2.    A trip down memory lane, revisiting the debates of elections past. Pay attention in particular to the heavy emphasis on previous “game changers,” debate moments that produced dramatic changes in the election. (Spoiler alert: There aren’t very many!)
3.    An explanation of why the debates matter so much.
4.    An explanation of why the debates don’t matter at all.
5.    An explanation of why the debates themselves don’t matter, but the media’s subsequent treatment of them does.
6.    Faithful reproduction of one or both sides’ talking points, presented with or without comment or interpretation.
7.    A lowering of expectations of the lowering of expectations.
8.    A rant about how the debates aren’t really good tests of how candidates would perform as president, and a suggestion about how to improve things. Stay alert for a possible partisan breakdown of suggestions: Republicans may want an executive job interview, while Democrats prefer more interaction with “the people,” and independents want to see independent (i.e. irrelevant) candidates on the stage as well.
9.    Unsolicited advice on how the candidates ought to act in order to win the debate. (Spoiler alert: often obvious, wrong or impractical)
10.    A prediction of who will win, normally biased by the source of the prediction. Be on the lookout for the reverse jinx! Always exciting.
Feel free to add other tips in the comments.

photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

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2 thoughts on “What to watch for in “what to watch for” columns

  1. Hey Stew, good call on the “game-changer” front. I can’t think of any examples, other than Reagan’s “there he goes again” refrain, and Nixon’s flop sweat.

    Of course, any debate day media guide would be remiss if it ignored the glut of Presidential Debate Drinking Games. A friend of mine in DC is having trouble picking her favorite, but I’m a little wary of the whole enterprise. In my experience, these political drinking games are especially dangerous, because it’s too easy to anticipate many of the talking points. In January ’06, I thought it clever to put “any derivative of terror” on my GW Bush State of the Union drinking game. That was a huge mistake. Similarly, the presidential campaigns have been droning on for so long now, that any half-aware, drinking game designer can regurgitate a list of talking points that will be sure to produce black-outs.

  2. Any derivative of terror? If you play honestly, that would have been enough to put someone in the hospital. I remember doing a textual analysis of the US Defence Strategy early in Bush Mk II’s term, with terror showing up dozens of times in sentences like, “The United States will be remain implacable in its war on terror, until the scourge that is the terrorizing terror of terrorists has been eradicated.”

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