Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Prepping For The Spin

The second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York will officially begin tonight at 9PM Eastern/8PM Central Time - but we can tell you with certainty that the truly influential part of the debate has already begun.

Over the weekend, both campaigns already began hinting at what might be coming tonight. But the first camp to break the ethical boundary and begin outright spinning the media for their candidate was - to nobody's surprise - the Romney campaign. This time Team Romney is trying a new approach, in that they're turning their blame cannon on the media itself - by insisting that the media wants an Obama comeback.

The theory behind that claim is that it will place the blame completely on the media for any anti-Romney remarks that are made after the debate, while also lowering expectations for Mr. Romney's performance tonight.

Sadly, we're almost certain that, like stupid dogs that chase any ball thrown their way, much of the media will take Romney's bait and pull back on their criticism of him.

You can rest assured: we're nobody's lapdog, and we'll be tough on both candidates. If Obama lies as much as Romney does, we'll certainly call him on it. If either man attempts to do something out of character, we'll call him on that too.

The format for tonight is the town hall format, which our staff is frankly somewhat divided on.

The town hall format is a debate development that was first tried twenty years ago, and it has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, the format often forces the candidates to think on their feet, pivot quickly, and showcase their charm - something every President has to do daily for four years. On the negative side, it's a form of leaving the incredibly difficult work of vetting candidates to complete amateurs, at a level where it should be done by the very best professionals available.

As with all town hall debates, the crowd will have been partially screened for political makeup, and even to some degree for the questions the attendees say they might ask. As long as the questioners aren't screened out too intensely, tonight may provide more fireworks than some in the media believe it will.

Remember: people are unpredictable, especially when they know cameras are rolling.

Tonight won't be easy for the moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley. To start with, Ms. Crowley is facing significant pressure from both the Romney and Obama campaigns to follow a "Memorandum Of Understanding" both campaigns signed prior to the debate in Denver, and which was leaked Monday by Time's Mark Halperin.

Ms. Crowley will also likely be judged against ABC's Martha Raddatz, who did an incredible job moderating during the Vice Presidential Debate. Like many at the top levels of the media, Ms. Crowley is competitive and Ms. Raddatz's performance last week set a phenomenally high bar. Hopefully, that competitive nature may spur Crowley to be truly tough on both candidates. Crowley has also stated publicly that she will get involved in this debate and likely ask follow-up questions - which we fervently hope she does, in spite of both campaign's efforts to silence her in the role of moderator.

As with previous debates, we'll have an analysis of the event in tomorrow's edition, along with the applicable fact checks.

Get your popcorn and drinks ready, folks - and know that we'll be watching with you tonight.
We have a feeling this will be the real 'Must See TV.'

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