Tuesday, December 15, 2015


As we observe another presidential debate, we can ask what
it is these televised spectacles tell us and show us about the

I suggest that the debates don’t necessarily inform us
thoroughly about how a candidate would perform as president,
nor do they completely inform us abut the knowledge and
experience of the candidates. Their record in previous office or
work, and their resumes probably tell us more about these

The debates also don’t tell us much about the kind of persons
these candidates would gather to their administration or the
manner in which they take counsel from others.

What the debates do tell us is something of how each candidate
feels about himself or herself, their ability to take command,
and their skill in acting under stress. While I note that these are
not the only qualities voters need to assess in deciding whom to
support for president, they are important factors in being an
effective chief executive and commander in chief.

The debates are just one part of the presidential campaign
process, and performance in them, either good or bad, can be
critical to the outcome of the contest, especially for the
party nomination. In an era, of hyper-mass communication,
the internet, social media and round-the-clock news, the debates
have become a primary interface between voter and candidate.

As we go into the new year, and the earliest caucus and primary
voting, however, campaign organization, strategy and finances
become increasingly significant, particularly in a cycle such as
this one which has so many well-known competitors for the
political prize.

In an attempt to be fair, those conducting the Republican
debates have from the outset held two debates, one for
candidates higher in the polls and one for those with lower
poll numbers. As the next level of the campaign begins,
however, it would seem appropriate to have just one debate
with an appropriate standard for participation.

The time for each major party to decide who will lead their
national ticket in November, 2016 is now approaching. The
debates have been, and will continue to be, very important,
but a larger picture of the ability and the personality of each
candidate now takes on a greater significance, and with each
additional debate, voters will need to see that bigger picture
forming in front of them with more clarity. Earlier impressions
now undergo a new and greater scrutiny. It is well-known that
voting decisions themselves often occur late in the process,
perhaps only days before the voting itself.

This election year has only begun. Much lies ahead.


(December 16, 2015):

The latest Republican debate, I think, has narrowed the field
de facto a month before the first actual voting in the Iowa
Caucus. Donald Trump continues to lead in the national
generic polls, but much more credible polls from individual
states indicate his lead might be an illusion. Once again in
the debates, his familiarity with domestic and foreign policy
issues seemed slight juxtaposed next to most of his rivals.
Jeb Bush for the first time successfully stood up to Trump,
and seemed through most of the debate evening to be a major
player in the contest, He, along with Chris Christie, Ted Cruz
and Marco Rubio seemed to be the night's biggest winners.
Carly Fiorina and John Kasich seemed to hold their own, but
each primarily increased their chances to be the party's vice
presidential choice. Trump and Ben Carson seemed out of their
element. Rand Paul, who barely made the main debate stage this
time, was articulate about many issues, but his views do not
appear to be shared by most GOP voters, much less his rivals
on the debate stage. This might have been his last 2016 debate

It's clearly time to cancel the second debate format, and to
schedule, in the remaining debates, only one event with
appropriate and increased standards for participation.

Governor Christie, who has made some of the most dramatic
recent gains in the presidential field, particularly in New
Hampshire, now needs to increase his standing in other states,
including Iowa and South Carolina, as well as some of the
Super Tuesday states, if he is to maintain momentum going
into the actual voting in the new year.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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