1st debate strategy - 10 suggestions

With a short 3 days to go until the first debate, the next major shift in the polls is inevitably drawing closer. The debate will focus on foreign policy, something on which McCain has a polling advantage. My strategy suggestions are:

  1. Since McCain has a polling advantage over Obama on this issue, this is a perfect opportunity to get folks refocused on foreign policy and the war on terrorism. ABC News predicts over 60 million people will tune in and watch the debate, so this is about as big as both conventions combined. We can all press the advantage McCain has on foreign policy and Obama’s inexperience and bad judgment in our conversations with friends, family and neighbors.

  2. The media will spin this as an Obama victory no matter what. That is a given. That said, with Obama off his teleprompter, I have my money down he is going to have a few gaffes and bad moments. With any luck, he could come off really bad, like he did in the last debate with Clinton. Suggestion 2 therefore is to ignore the media and focus conversations on Obama’s poor debate performance.

  3. McCain should raise the point that although this is the first debate, he invited Obama to a series of 10 joint town halls which Obama chickened out of. Most Americans don’t realize Obama dodged those debates, but its a political score if McCain makes that point in front of the 60 million viewers.

  4. McCain must stay on the attack. Obama is very uncomfortable if he feels he’s being attacked or that the focus goes to issues he does not prefer to talk about. He’s not a fighter, he’s an orater. If McCain can put Obama on the defensive, Obama will sound off-balance, off message, reactionary, weak, professorial, and equivocating, (all of which he is, but does not come out when he slips into oratory mode).

  5. Obama will try to paint McCain as Bush III again. As such, McCain must also attack Bush foreign policy, where appropriate. McCain should note he would never lead the country to war on bad intelligence. McCain should, at best, appear to be the centrist he is, striking a balance between Bush on the right and Obama on the left. McCain should reemphasize his commitment to tap the “best and brightest” regardless of party affiliation.

  6. Obama will try to argue that Bush got it wrong on Iraq. McCain should turn the conversation by focusing on the surge, focusing on where to move forward, both in Iraq and in the war on terror. Obama will say “McCain won’t follow bin Laden to the cave he lives in, much less the gates of hell” or something to that effect. McCain should have a good retort ready.

  7. He should probably note Obama’s many different and inconsistent positions on Iraq, and his violation of American law by trying to negotiate American foreign policy with Iraq. More important than Obama’s breaking the law on this though is the political cost of having asked Iraqi leaders to favor keeping American troops in Iraq a little longer. This will not sit well with Obama’s base, and could be worked in while discussing Obama’s many duplicitous positions on Iraq.

  8. Which candidate will appear as being a better supporter of the troops? Obama will say McCain voted against funding the hospitals. This is untrue but McCain must point out Obama voting against the body armor the troops needed, voting to legislate failure in Iraq, saying the surge would never work and continuing to argue it failed before finally admitting it worked while stating “nobody dreamed it would have succeeded” and then claim credit.

  9. Breadth of foreign policy knowledge is an area McCain should destroy Obama on. Giuliani’s depiction of Obama’s approach to the Russian crisis is nicely crystallized for McCain to take Obama to task on.

  10. McCain must take Obama to task for agreeing to meet with foreign leaders without preconditions, how Obama reversed himself on the issue, and how even Obama’s own V.P. said “he got it wrong.”

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