Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 30, 2008
POLITICS: The McCain September Debate Strategy: A Suggestion

An idea; a proposal: John McCain should challenge Barack Obama to a week-long set of town-hall debates (say, 4-5 of them) on college campuses when the college kids go back to school in late August/early September. Such debates could be concentrated specifically in the Big Ten schools (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio St) and other swing-state universities (U. Missouri) that can produce huge audiences in close proximity to where the candidates will already be campaigning. I'm sure MTV could be lined up to host the debates in as wide-open a format, with no pre-screening of the audience, as possible.

Such a proposal would be a win-win for McCain. College campuses are guaranteed hostile territory for McCain, but he's never feared tough crowds, and it would give him a great chance to break through the groupthink surrounding Obama. And big Midwestern state schools are large and diverse enough that no audience would be without a few College Republicans willing to ask some tough, educated questions to Obama. Obama is likely to try to duck a large number of free-form events, but if he bails, McCain can really go after him for not being willing to wade into the very youth audiences that supposedly form the core of his own support. This won't actually win McCain a ton of young voters, but it might help stem the Obama tide there as well as getting out the general message about Obama being a marketing department creation who's afraid to come out from behind his teleprompter.

And if Obama agrees, all to the good. Especially if a lot of the questioners are snot-nosed pinkos and filthy hippies. McCain's performance at open town hall events over the past year and a half, after all, has done wonders to reassure people nervous about his age and his ability to hold his temper.

As most of us will recall from our college years, owing to their youth and relative insulation from the real world, college students have a different heirarchy of values and priorities than voters who work for a living and have families to raise - in general, there are three things college students respect above all others:

1. Authenticity. John McCain is one of the least canned politicians you are likely to ever see.

2. The willingness and ability to debate just about anything, no matter how obvious or ridiculous. College kids, whether or not they are particularly studious or intellectual, love endless dorm-room bull sessions and hate old people who lack the quickness of mind and mouth (or at least mouth) of the young.

3. People who are interested in the opinions of college students.

A series of campus debates would be a perfect opportunity for McCain to show he can best Obama at all three.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)

Obama's the frontrunner, he can tell McCain to shove his debate proposals. He needs to play come from behind, not to mention seek the free publicity.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at July 1, 2008 1:49 AM

College students are snot-nosed pinkos and filthy hippies? You're kidding, right?

As for the observation that college students will appreciate McCain because he's authentic, that's doubtful. I think the "authentic straight-talker" image is a PR strategy. McCain flip flops and changes his views just like everyone else.

Posted by: steve at July 1, 2008 10:58 AM

sry, college students are also into visual and audio cool.
mccain's voice is irritating, and he will look very old and very short in any room with obama.
bad idea.

Posted by: griefer at July 1, 2008 12:28 PM

Steve, you don't read very closely or think very deeply, do you?

Which brings me to the questions: Which college do you attend, and how are the Obama meetings going?

Posted by: Rocketeer at July 1, 2008 12:31 PM

"Snot-nosed pinkos and filthy hippies" sounds a bit dated. How about "self-absorbed" and your 'insulated from the real world" comment.

John McCain is almost painfully authentic. I wish he would flip-flop on quite a number of issues.

Sounds like a good proposal, don't know if it will happen. Obama is lost without his prepared text, so hopefully this plan would expose him for the dangerous fraud that he is.

Posted by: michael at July 1, 2008 12:32 PM

Great idea - with one proviso that would be a deal killer for the Obamessiah: No pre-approved questions. He'd have to actually think of an answer, not read it off a teleprompter.

He'd be shown to be the very empty suit he is.

Which is why there's no way he'd go for it. Obama has never NOT run from a challenge or a fight. He's a coward.

Posted by: Fidel, MD at July 1, 2008 12:41 PM

Exactly. Nothing will drive mainstream voters away from Obama faster than seeing him in an auditorium full of his most ardent supporters, fielding questions about "free" healthcare from the MoveOn Chimpy McBushitler crowd.

Posted by: John at July 1, 2008 12:41 PM

Obama will refuse, as he refused McCain's proposal immediately after Hillary's concession.

But perhaps there is further value in watching Obama skulk away and hide from scrutiny again.

BTW, Obama is simply awful when unscripted. Anyone who suggests the contrary is living fantasy. And yes, he has known the questions ahead of his most noteworthy "impromptu" appearances in the mainstream media.

Anyone who took seriously Tim Russert's pummeling of Howard Dean in 2004 over how little he knew about the active deployment of the U.S. military can't support Obama on principle, only to satisfy a craving for power and ideology.

Posted by: apetrelli at July 1, 2008 1:06 PM

Snot-nosed pinkos and filthy hippies?!? And Republicans wonder why they have difficulty connecting with younger voters.

From an election strategy standpoint, it's is a good idea for McCain to visit college campuses - alone. Give them a chance to hear his point of view and let him show that he cares about the same issues, even if he proposes different solutions. Like him or not, Obama is somewhat of a cult figure among the young, so why appear on the same stage with him in front of his faithful, even at a midwestern school?

I think the one reason that young people didn't run away from Reagan was his "grandfatherly" image - gentle in his communications. Is McCain likely to appear that way in a -debate- with Obama? Probably not - he'll be in attack mode, which is what you want in certain audiences, but not for an aging Republican candidate among college-aged students.

Posted by: MVH at July 1, 2008 2:30 PM

Here's a debate format that no candidates would ever agree to: experts from across the spectrum ask them a series of questions about their policies. Rather than just asking a simplistic question and then moving on, they'd be able to get into the details of a topic and show how the candidates' plans are flawed.

Needless to say, that would be opposed by the candidates, the Parties, the MSM, and most of the candidates' supporters.

Details on the plan at my name's link.

Posted by: The details at July 1, 2008 2:56 PM

I think it's a capital idea!

And if Obama agrees, all to the good. Especially if a lot of the questioners are snot-nosed pinkos and filthy hippies.

I can't imagine who else intends to support Obama. Maybe some neat-as-a-pin femmy gays might show up and ask for the microphone to sissy-toss a softball or two at Obama.

Who wouldn't want to climb on a bandwagon like that? Diverthity rockth!

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 1, 2008 3:22 PM

I'd go one better. McCain ought to hit the campuses with a chair next to him upon which is a suit folded neatly.

He can explain that the empty suit is the closest he can come to getting his opponent to show up and debate him. And really what's the difference between the empty suit and Obama.

Unfortunately... I don't think McCain is willing to FIGHT for the presidency. In that light...when McCain concedes on election night, it will be because he was never interested in a contest to begin with.

I, of course, hope to be proven wrong. But the man is not a Conservative... and so I don't know that he has any ideals worth fighting for.

Posted by: Cro at July 1, 2008 3:36 PM

The details - No! We can't have a debate on the details of policies, the voters might learn too much.

Even if you could get the candidates can agree on the concept, can you imagine how much fighting there would be over which "experts" were involved?

It's too bad, I'd definitely watch the debates in that format. I don't bother watching them as they are currently formatted.

Posted by: MVH at July 1, 2008 3:37 PM

Every time I think certain aspects of this blog are as far disconnected from the reality of the world as they possibly could be they manage to put another bucket in the pool. Holy cow, do you even read your own writing? Could you possibly pigeon-hole a sector of this country more indiscriminantly? Seriously, the closer we get to November the more amazing and fantastical this is becoming.

Posted by: jim at July 1, 2008 3:45 PM

What are you talking about, jim? Who's pigeonholing? Didn't Donna Brazile claim the four pillars of the Democratic Party were gays and the transgendered, union thugs, blacks and women?

Crank just expanded your party to include filthy, stinking hippies and Che Ches. Sounds to me like you're opposed to inclusion.

Don't be a hater, jim.

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 1, 2008 3:52 PM

Yeah, Donna Brazile does not speak for me...nor is she particularly good for the Democratic Party. But I agree with Jim...anyone who 1) thinks that Obama needs a script has not read Dreams of My Father and really ought to before judging the man; or 2) thinks that McCain can match Obama in a college crowd has lost their freaking mind.

But it is nice to know that this site operates under those new politics of being above and beyond name calling. Next time you complain about others name calling, just remember this post about "pinkos" and "filthy hippies".

Posted by: AstrosFan at July 1, 2008 4:02 PM

So you guys are claiming that there's no chance a filthy hippie or a douche in a Che shirt might show up at a campus debate to ask Obama or McCain a question or two? Where'd you guys go to school, Annapolis?

There's not only a chance it'd happen, it's nearly certain. Why are you guys so offended at that possibility? These are your ideological comrades. You should be embracing them, not trying to wish them into the cornfield.

Put down the Haterade!

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 1, 2008 4:14 PM

Is this the same thread I posted on about an hour ago? When did we start discussing the presidential election of 1968?

Posted by: MVH at July 1, 2008 4:39 PM

Good idea. Except I bet McCain is more likely to run into libertarians and conservatives than Republicans, which means he will face hostile fire in all directions.

Posted by: Jim2 at July 1, 2008 4:50 PM

Really, unbelievable. Probably some wetbacks with immigration reform questions and chinks with money will show up, too. Nice to know this is where you are all going with this. Beautiful.

Posted by: jim at July 1, 2008 5:37 PM

Ohio State doesn't start up until late September.

Posted by: kenb at July 1, 2008 5:44 PM

If McCain brings the girls from his bus, he would get the attention of all the straight males in the audiance. Just check out the McCainBloggett's (That's Meghan McCain) report from London on July 1.

Posted by: joated at July 1, 2008 7:44 PM

"John McCain is almost painfully authentic."
michael, you owe me a new keyboard. My coffee flew out of my nose at that one.
BTW, do you write comedy for a living? You are TOO funny!

As for the filthy hippies: Do they always have to be 100% correct about everything? it's getting tiresome watching everyone who laughed at them admit they were right all along.
The Iraq War is about oil. Check. Even Greenspan admitted that.
How about when they told you the US was aiming to put long-term military bases in Iraq? remember how all the "very serious" conservatives scoffed at that one?
If the dirty f-n hippies worked on Wall Street, the Dow would be at 40,000+.

Posted by: Berto at July 1, 2008 10:50 PM


"Could you possibly pigeon-hole a sector of this country more indiscriminantly(sic)?"

Don't tase me, bro!

Posted by: Kevin Downey at July 2, 2008 12:03 AM

The problem with McCain is that he stands for absolutely nothing, and as a principled conservative he will never get my vote. He has decried recent Court rulings but he supported the nominations of Souter, Ginsberg, Kennedy, and Breyer so he lacks credibility. No way he can be trusted on judges; they were always the first thing he threw under the bus when reaching out to make buddies with the left. On immigration he talks a good line now about putting border security first but that was just to get past the primary; if he had his way it would be amnesty period. He's absolutely mum on faith issues, hasnt gone after the considerable amounts of defense pork that lather our budgets year after year, screwed the Republicans on campaign financing, and where finesse is truly called for around the world he favors force and bullheaded rhetoric. Town hall debates aren't going to resurrect his sorry ass.

Posted by: robert at July 2, 2008 2:03 AM

Some facts on the composition of the Democratic Party:

Liberals - 45.6%
Conservatives - 33.2%
Disadvantaged - 21.2%

From 2005 Pew Research Center Study reported in

Posted by: MVH at July 2, 2008 9:42 AM

"The problem with McCain is that he stands for absolutely nothing, and as a principled conservative he will never get my vote."

Going into the general election, this is why McCain is between a rock and a hard place. Generally, candidates from both parties try to move to the center to gather a broader base of support. The problem is that McCain may have to stay to the right to make sure people like robert come out and vote.

Obama, of course, also has problems to the right, but that's the direction he needs to move for the general election anyway.

Posted by: MVH at July 2, 2008 1:40 PM

Debating a chair with an empty suit is a fantastic idea. The "in the bag" media would denounce it, but regular Americans would understand the humor and recognize how it show Obama is scared to debate without a teleprompter.

MVH's comment shows the problem of liberalism. If a hard core leftist like Obama realizes he is unelectable unless he pretends to be more conservative it shows that even he knows that America is more conservative than the nuts would like to think.

Posted by: largebill at July 3, 2008 12:22 AM

"Debating a chair with an empty suit is a fantastic idea. "
Yeah. Americans get nuance. (LOL)

Posted by: Berto at July 3, 2008 1:27 AM

"MVH's comment shows the problem of liberalism."

No, it just indicates the natural progression that -any- party's candidate has to go through when campaigning for president, regardless of whether they are liberal, conservative or moderate. The problem McCain has in this particular election is he never locked up his base early on.

Posted by: MVH at July 3, 2008 7:18 AM

Well, I wasn't around for the Instalanche for this post, but I see the thread descended into a Rorschach test pretty quickly.

Posted by: Crank at July 7, 2008 2:31 PM

Those of you who Jack Germond referred to as the "full-mooners" really ought to look at the quality of mind of those who agree with you. I am referring mostly to "spongeworthy." The hatred, intolerance and ignorance that comes from his keypad is remarkable. Just when you think he (or she) could not stoop any lower, out comes another screed.

Crank, I agree generally with your observations on the intellectual rigor of most college students, I think you wildly over-estimate mcCain's authenticity. While it is the conventional wisdom that he does better in town hall settings, is that really saying much since he is a truly awful speech-maker? Also, to use the vernacular, he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and Joe Lieberman is not going to be standing behind him whispering answers.

Posted by: Magrooder at July 7, 2008 3:07 PM
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