NEWS BLOG (WSAU) For those of you think the upcoming presidential debates are make-or-break --- maybe.
Debates are more likely echo chambers instead of persuasive hour-long exchanges. If your natural political tendencies are towards the left, you’ll hear more things you agree with from Barack Obama. If you’re to-the-right politically, you’ll nod your head when Mitt Romney speaks. I think the debates are more likely to confirm what we like and dislike about candidates than to swing our vote from one to the other.
We focus on who “won” or “lost”, and the answer probably depends on whether you watch these events through red or blue-shaded glasses. I think a debate can shift momentum in a presidential race. I don’t think it sways many voters.
The Tommy Thompson-Tammy Baldwin debate last Friday is a good example. I’m not invested in either candidate; Thompson is old and crusty and doesn’t fit today’s GOP model, while Baldwin is out-of-the-political-mainstream on the left. Thompson, flaws and all, outdebated Baldwin. She appeared unsure of herself and appeared out of her depth. Thompson, even as a flawed GOP candidate, is so rehearsed that he could mumble his practice-card answers in his sleep. But Baldwin wasn’t so bad that her support would crumble. Thompson wasn’t so good that anyone would have an, “Ah ha! Eureka! I’ve got to vote for him!” moment. Factor in that very few people actually watch or hear the debate, and I’m not sure the needle was moved one way or the other.
The bottom line is that depending on a debate to turn around a political campaign is a high risk, low reward strategy.