Thursday, September 30, 2004

Debate Predictions

Prediction 1: John Kerry Will Win the Debate.

This isn't based on any assessment of Kerry's debate skills vs. Bush's, but rather because incumbent presidents have traditionally lost their first debate. In 1976 Ford freed Poland, in 1980 Jimmy Carter talked about discussing nuclear proliferation with his daughter Amy, in 1984 Ronald Reagan showed his age, and in 1992 polls showed George H.W. Bush coming in a distant third behind Ross Perot and Bill Clinton. The only exception was Bill Clinton in 1996.

Why this pattern? First, challengers usually have more recent debate experience from the primary season. Conversely, incumbents lack this recent experience. Plus, they tend to be more isolated from difficult questions. Challengers tend to face the press more, if for no other reason than to get free media. Second, challengers usually score points just by sharing the stage with the incumbent and looking presidential.

Prediction 2; Kerry's Victory Won't Change the Polls Much.

Most polls show that debate performances don't change many minds. Plus, the number of undecided voters is pretty low this time out.

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