We now know that the debate between John McCain and Barack Obama is on. My thoughts on what needs to be achieved by each candidate is as follows:
Barack Obama: He is the candidate with the reputation for eloquence and verbal fluency and he is going to have to show it–especially against John McCain, who is not nearly as good a communicator as Obama is. Obama should have an advantage given the fact that for the past day, McCain has been seriously involved in trying to broker a deal on the bailout and that he is tired and perhaps not as prepped as he should be for the debate. Obama will have to make sure that he frames his answers to questions in a manner that is not overly academic and overly ponderous. I imagine that he will easily be able to do so given that he has had a lot of practice in the debates during the primary and caucus season and given that his campaign has sought to prep him specifically to answer questions shortly and succinctly and to act as if there wasn’t even another debater in the room. Because the economy will be talked about during the course of the debate, Obama will benefit since the economy is more likely to work for him as an issue than it is to work for McCain as one. As for foreign policy, to the extent that it is part of the debate, Obama needs to make sure that he holds serve and especially that he is able to fog up the debate concerning Iraq so that people don’t perceive he was on the wrong side of the debate over the surge in Iraq and John McCain was on the right side.
John McCain: As mentioned above, since McCain has been busy working on the bailout deal and hasn’t been prepping, he is not in the best position to debate. So it will be a surprise if McCain can do well. He will need to work to identify himself closely with the effort to come up with a successful legislative package to bring about financial relief and he will have to show that he is more in tune with the financial concerns of Americans than Obama–with his silver tongue–is. As for foreign policy, McCain needs to hammer home the fact that he is experienced on the world stage, that he is intimately familiar with defense and foreign affairs issues and tht he was specifically correct on the surge, while Obama was wrong on it. McCain will want to show that any success in Iraq will depend on relying on the advice of tried and true statesmen and that unlike Obama, he has shown himself to be tried and true thanks to his early realization that the surge will work.