Monday, September 26, 2016

The first debate: What to watch for

The first post-debate morning is tomorrow morning!  I can hardly wait!

What, you thought I was going to talk about tonight?!  Tonight is barely relevant.  Yes, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will show up on a stage, but what really matters is tomorrow morning.

Yup, we're headed down memory lane again!  This time, 2000.  The first presidential debate in 2000 played out very strangely.  It was the first year they used a split screen to show the speaker and the reaction shot of the other candidate.  The debate itself was relatively normal.  Bush the Younger said some stuff, as did Gore.  Most immediate reaction polls favored Gore slightly.  But, on the split-screen, images showed Gore's physical reactions to Dubya.  His eye rolls and sighs, in particular, garnered a lot of attention in the post-debate coverage.  That meant Gore lost the post-debate coverage.  The debate itself?  Irrelevant because Gore rolled his eyes.

And that's the funny thing.  It can be hard to predict what will generate the post-debate discussion.  Sometimes it is a weird, little moment.

Of course, sometimes it is an obvious moment.  Rick Perry's "oops" moment.  "You're no Jack Kennedy."  Candy Crowley fact-checking Mitt Romney mid-debate.  There are obvious moments.  Maybe there will be one of those.  If so, it will probably be Trump acting like Trump.

Watch.  It might be absolutely hilarious.  Trump has never done a 90 minute, one-on-one debate before.  And, word is that he hasn't been practicing.  What will happen?  It could be normal and boring, or it could be the craziest thing ever.

What matters, though, is the post-debate discussion.

Even then, though, will it affect the outcome?  Probably not.  Most of the research shows little effect on poling or election outcomes for debates.  Unless Trump does something wild and crazy.

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