Monday, October 02, 2006

Granholm / DeVos Debate on Michlib

Check out WK's diary. These were my comments:

Once again, this guy is just going through his con man routine. Anyone who has run Amway for around a decade knows how to spin the heck out of anything and sound convincing. He may be a little awkward, but I can almost guarantee you that he isn't new to this kind of thing. Plus, he's got all of his expensive Amway-purchased consultants telling him what to do.

I'm more interested in seeing how this debate format goes over more than anything else. This is all assuming that the debate format is actually going to be what Skubick said it is in one of his columns ("open" format with no rules):

If its true, I'm happy to see an environment that could potentially throw them off their game and off of their scripted talking points. Will it turn into a shout match? There is clearly an incentive to try and monopolize the time / shout louder than the other person.

If the similarly formatted Brewer/DeWitt/Anuzis/Truscott debate on "Off The Record" is any indication, counter-arguments are going to be a lot more important than usual IMO. Having more counter-arguments means that you have more "stuff" to fill time with than the other candidate. This means that while you're talking, they're not. In an "open" format, this is the ideal position to be in.

Counter-arguments are also more important because a topic of discussion can continue on indefinately (until Skubick decides to force a change of subject, basically). Typically, the order is: moderator gives question, candidate 1 answers, candidate 2 answers, and sometimes afterward candidate 1 follows up, candidate 2 follows up after that, and then the subject is done. The advantage of this format is that each candidate has an equal amount of time to fully develop an argument and convey a message the way they want to. The disadvantage is that we don't get to really see how each of these messages stack up against each other. With this proposed format, we won't necessarily have an equal amount of time for each candidate or as fully developed messages, but the candidates could need more than just one or two counter-arguments if the discussion carries on past one rebuttal.

If Skubick is good, he'll also make them actually answer the question that is being asked. Normally in debates, the moderator asks a question and then the responder can say anything they want, so candidates are able to keep really "on message" and not get distracted. In this case, he can ask follow-up questions in the middle of their monologues and hopefully hold them accountable for what is actually being asked. I don't know if he's actually going to do that, but at least there is that potential.

Like most debates, it is the "spin war" that needs to be won. Most of the people actually watching are already decided anyway. What the debate really does is help to define the "story" that is told by the media.


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