Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=100691
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 11:33:31 PM CST
Zelinsky: “Play defense and shoot from the perimeter while not looking like he is skirting the issues.”
Gaines: “I am expecting Obama to play it safe.”
Zelinski: “He has to really land a few punches ... he has to do this with a smile on his face, which is not easy to do.”
Galvin: “Question people’s opinions of [Obama] and his ability to lead.” With the current economic crisis, “I don’t know what McCain can say.”
Gaines: “Really needs to take chances ... try to convey the message that Obama is not ready to be president ... I don’t think the Ayers link will play.”
Two men enter, only one will win. Or both will win. Or neither will win. Or one will win, but lose the expectations game. Or …
The third and final presidential debate between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama will take place Wednesday night at Hofstra University in New York.
Political experts see the debate as possibly the last big platform for McCain to make a statement as his poll numbers lag and Election Day sits less than three weeks away.
“Whether [the debate] matters is like whether a single round in a boxing match matters. If there is a knockout punch, then it matters” said Aaron Zelinsky, editor of a web site devoted to the McCain-Obama debates.
Zelinsky said the influence that debates have over the election is often tied to unexpected moments. He pointed to the town hall-style debate on Oct. 8 as an example of a debate that will have little effect on outcomes because the questions were more straightforward.
Brian Gaines, associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, says for the most part debates don’t have a huge influence on presidential elections. Gaines says McCain needs to take chances, but questions whether that will be enough at this stage.
“It is hard to think of how he is going to pull the rabbit out of the hat at this, or any other, event,” Gaines said.
The viewership that debates draw can give the candidates a platform that otherwise does not exist in day-to-day campaigning. Experts say it is McCain who has to take full advantage of the attention.
“The debate gives [McCain] an opportunity to do something that will capture the public’s attention,” said Daniel Galvin, assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University.
Galvin says that most people think that debates do matter in some way.
However, he also says the general political climate plays a significant role, “There is always the question of whether campaigns make a difference, or do voters vote on, ‘Am I better off then I was four years ago?’” Galvin said.
The format of presidential debates can also influence perceptions.
The specific guidelines for this series of debates, Zelinsky said, are contained in a 31-page document that has not been released publicly. Past debate stipulations have outlined not only time limits and format, but camera angles and set coloring as well.
While the specifics of the McCain-Obama debates have not been made public, they appear to be less constricted then those in the recent past.
“These debates have been some of the most open-ended,” Zelinsky said.
However the debates are structured, the candidates will aim to take full advantage.
“Candidates will do whatever they can to turn the debates to their advantage,” Galvin said.
The third and final debate will take place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night.