Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 30, 2004
POLITICS: Quick Prediction

Lots of interesting issues to address for tonight's debate, but I'll just make a prediction on one. A key issue of tone for Kerry is whether to try to look presidential and be likeable, and thus temper his attacks on Bush in favor of trying to lay out his own vision, or whether to play to his natural strength as a debater - the strength that forged his reputation as a "good closer" - and go mercilessly on the attack, questioning Bush's truthfulness and trying to bait Bush.

My prediction: the latter. Several reasons: (1) Bob Dole, who shares some of Kerry's strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate, tried the former approach in 1996, to no effect (as Kerry's Clinton-era staffers will recall); (2) Kerry has been on the attack in recent speeches, to say nothing of his spokespeople; (3) Kerry's base wants it (to the point where some people have been pining for Howard Beale Dean lately), and may need to hear some of the old 1971 anti-war passion from Kerry to perk up morale and get out the down-ticket vote.

I'm not saying this is necessarily the wisest strategy. But it will feel good, and stands a chance of breaking the race's momentum (or, alternatively, burying Kerry entirely). I predict that Kerry decides that he's been too cautious for too long, throws caution to the wind, and turns his rhetorical boat into the fire, coming out swinging as the man Kerry obviously believes he really is.

Stay tuned. The fireworks could be fun to watch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Kerry's choice of strategy is really the only suspense/drama for the evening. The "debate's" lame-ass format actually hampers any "skill advantage" Kerry possesses, as trumpeted so often in the preview shows.

The real action is in the post-game analysis, much as it was in 2000. Who will be spun as the winner and who will be commenting will have a much bigger impact than the debate itself.

Viewers won't give Bush the slack he had in 2000 since he is the incumbent and more of a known quantity, but Kerry is no match in the area of personal connection. This evens the field a bit, but I anticipate a fairly predictable and frustrating to watch "dueling press conferences" debate.

Posted by: Mr Furious at September 30, 2004 1:46 PM
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