Deep Thoughts On The Debate Format

Senator John Kerry – Kerry’s advisers must be peeing their pants happy about this format, even with its strict time limits. The 2 minute/90 second response format helped keep Kerry from wandering into one of his most deadly defects – the tendency to drag on and on while getting lost in minutia. For Kerry the shorter the answer the more effective – he tends to shine when he stays tight and focused. Anyone who has seen one of his campaign stump speeches knows how quickly he can drain the energy from a crowd when allowed to speak long form.

President Bush – Contrary to the conventional wisdom I think that the more free-form the debate the better Bush does. For the President the time to quality ratio is more of a positive correlation – the more time he has to answer a question the better he does. Bush occasionally miscues under time restrictions, and does not get as many points as his opponent. In most cases that doesn’t matter, but if you’ve seen a Bush campaign speech you’ve seen him build momentum as the speech goes. That kind of momentum is harder to capture in a 90 second response.

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