I recently posted my impressions on the vice presidential debate as well as the first and second presidential debates. But, let’s not live in the past. Why not jump on the prognostication bandwagon and make a few predictions?1
- Prediction: Obama will be calm, cool, and collected. He will appear aloof and superior throughout the debate. He will also not go on the attack.
- Conventional wisdom says that a candidate that is ahead in the polls has nothing to gain and everything to lose by directly engaging the opposition.
- By not directly attacking McCain, Obama gives up the possibility of an additional rhetorical gain against McCain – but he’s so far ahead in the polls that he doesn’t need those possible gains.
- The flip-side is that by not attacking Obama can appear to be above the fray and petty partisan politics.
- Instead of attacking and counter-attacking, Obama will have a witty retort for every point McCain makes.
- Obama will essentially ignore, or make light of, McCain’s attacks. He will direct his remarks to the moderator and camera.
- Obama will make a few vaguely sniping attacks. Look out for extremely subtle references to McCain’s age or McCain’s actions as being inconsistent, unreliable, unpredictable or erratic.
- Prediction: McCain will be clawing like a cornered wolverine. We will see him attacking and challenging Obama relentlessly.
- McCain has to walk a fine line – appearing to be conservative enough to keep (or, rather, win back) the red states Bush won in 2004 – while being moderate enough to pick up blue states. In order to retake those red-states, McCain will stress his experience and commitment to core Republican values.
- McCain doesn’t say “maverick” nearly as much as Palin. While being a “maverick” is a decent way to collect undecided or Democratic voters, its a serious turn-off for Republicans. As a friend and staunch Republican recently told me, “Maverick is a word for someone who screws their own party.” I’m fairly certain Democrats feel the same way about Joe Lieberman.
- Its easy to see McCain becoming impassioned during his speeches and debates. However, McCain faces a special dilemma when pressing the attack. If he attacks too strongly, he risks being seen as desperate or hot-headed. Neither is an attractive quality for a possible president.
- McCain is so far behind in the polls that he needs to score some big points.
- During the first debate we saw McCain bring the attack to Obama. Obama was forced to play defense much of the time, accusing John of getting the facts wrong.
- We’re going to see McCain pressing the attack, posing questions directly to Obama, and trying to draw him into a head-on discussion.
- Unlike Obama who will be speaking to the moderator and audience, we’re going to see McCain addressing most of his remarks to “that one.” McCain will also take every opportunity to highlight when Obama doesn’t answer a question or gives a vague response.
So, there you have it, my totally ill-informed predictions based on nothing more than what I saw in the coffee grounds this morning.