Sunday, 22 January 2012

Two Styles of Debate

What worries the Obama team about a Newt situation?  Newt has hinted that he wants a Lincoln-Douglass style debate forum.  For those who aren't familiar with this 1850's style....a moment to explain the modern debates, and the Lincoln-Douglass method.

Today, if you hold a Presidential debate....there's a moderator or a group of moderators.  They get to ask any question they want, and phrase it in a method to help or hurt the guy at the podium.  Several opportunities have arisen over the last four decades where the moderator probably triggered an eventual bad moment for the candidate.  We could be honest here and admit that it was probably more Republicans hurt by this method, than Democrats.

Over the past decade, after July....there's a bit of discussion over the debate sequence, the quantity of debates, and who sits on the moderator table. Even the location of the debate, will often come up to be a problem.....when some university in Wisconsin is selected....which is hot Democrat territory, or some arena in North Carolina where a large number of independents might be in the audience.

So we come to the Lincoln-Douglass style.  You agree to meet in some town....maybe in a open theater, a university, or even a town square.  No moderator.  You agree to a couple of topics already established.  One guy starts with a open statement on something and gets ten minutes to talk up his topic.  The other guy gets ten minutes to free-chat over what was said.  The second guy typically has no speech in front of him, and is working strictly on real old-fashioned debate techniques.  They go back and forth for two hours, discussing probably six to eight topics at length.  A smart guy can beat a weak guy in this style of debate.

To be honest, Newt is fairly unbeatable in a Lincoln-Douglass style situation.  The President would look weak....and perhaps dismal in this style of debate.   In a moderator-debate.....a weak guy could come out ahead, with just a stupid question or two on the smart guy.

It's pretty good odds that President Obama would not agree to such a debate.  Newt would demand it, and at best....there might be two debates agreed upon....with one being a Lincoln-Douglass debate in some big Democratic university setting.  I'm guessing Newt will not be happy with one, and demand a minimum of three, but the President just plain isn't going to be stupid enough to doing something like this.

My humble guess is that we get to see one Lincoln-Douglass debate at best.  Now, the second debate with the moderator?  Well....if I were the moderator, I'd prepare myself to be tossed up one side and down the other by Newt.  The moderators selected....will carved up as badly as the President.

So, I'm thinking the President and staff would really like Mitt to come out winning in Florida.  If he doesn't, this Lincoln-Douglass topic will come out and a dozen folks will spend weeks thinking how they can counter Newt in October, and it won't be pleasant for anyone.