Friday, August 22, 2014

Expectations low for first presidential debate of ’12

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 10/1/2012

This week’s presidential debate likely will be a draw, a Kansas political science expert said Monday.

The outcome of the first head-to-head meeting between President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney is not likely to change the dynamics of the election, Dr. Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, said.

This week’s presidential debate likely will be a draw, a Kansas political science expert said Monday.

The outcome of the first head-to-head meeting between President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney is not likely to change the dynamics of the election, Dr. Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, said.

“The best bet is essentially a tie. Romney could do very well, but that might not change the dynamics of the race,” the professor said.

The first presidential debate is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. It will be broadcast live on C-SPAN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as well as all cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. On the campus of the University of Denver and hosted by Jim Lehrer, host of NewsHour on PBS, the debate will focus on domestic policy.

Ottawa Republican and local elected official David Hood said he isn’t likely to watch the debate live, but probably will see some of the coverage after. While he said he has his mind pretty well made up about who he’ll vote for, Hood said the candidates should stay on task during the debate.

“I would just like for them to come out and speak about what they are wanting to do instead of all the other stuff they rap at one another about,” Hood said.

The vice presidential debate, set for 8 p.m. Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky., interests Hood more than the presidential one, he added.

Determining a debate winner can be complicated, Beatty said, and can take time. While an unofficial winner often is announced afterward by political analysts and viewers, the choice typically is made based on the context of the race at the time of the debate. The individual debates, however, don’t have a game-changing effect on the overall election, Beatty said.

“It’s not: You have a debate performance, one candidate does well, and the election is completely changed, unless it’s the last debate,” Beatty said, adding that neither a stumble by Romney or Obama in this first debate is likely to effect people’s votes come November.

The post-debate media coverage is likely to have more of an impact on how the candidates are viewed by the general public rather than their individual performances, Beatty said. For instance, he explained, when Al Gore continually sighed and rolled his eyes during the 2000 presidential debates, media coverage centered on his attitude toward his opponent, George W. Bush.

Pundits have cited Obama’s possible advantage when facing the former governor in a debate, because of his experience in debating. Beatty, however, said with several debates under Romney’s belt during the primary election season, the two politicos are likely to be evenly matched.

“They’ve both been to literally dozens of debates. They’re both actually very experienced at debate,” Beatty said.

What it will come down to, Beatty said, will be Romney’s ability to control his emotions, citing the Republican candidate’s spontaneous $10,000 bet with Rick Perry and his comments about hiring a lawn care company that employed illegal immigrants.

“Romney can get excited at debates. He gets a little riled up,” he said. “That’s an X factor.”

Obama on the other hand, Beatty said, is a much more calculated debater. Obama’s lead in various polls also gives him an advantage going into the debate, he said, putting the pressure on Romney.

“At this point, when you’re ahead like Obama is, you just have to hold your ground so Romney is in the more dangerous position because he feels like he has to do very, very well. But when you do that, you run the danger of over-reaching, and when you over-reach, you may make a mistake.”

Regardless of who wins Wednesday night’s showdown, presidential debates are an important tradition in this country’s political system, Beatty said. It teaches the American people about the candidates’ policies and demonstrates a candidate’s ability to handle pressure situations.

“In terms of the actual race, they’re very important ... the candidates have to go out there and talk about the issues,” he said.

Presidential debates also are scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

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