Many people are looking forward to the upcoming Republican Youtube Debate (Wednesday November 28 on CNN) with a mixture of dread and fascination.
If you saw the similarly formatted Democrat debate this past summer, you know that there’s a potential for the questions to be incredibly inane in their content and unbearably cute in their presentation. On the flipside, there’s a definite fascination with the candidates and their individual responses to these unpredictable questions. We have an opportunity here to learn how the candidates think, how they cope with pressure, and most importantly, whether their positions are based on coherent philosphies or just opinion polling backed up with canned responses and one-liners. What we have here is a rare opportunity for a candidate to either soar on rhetorical wings of eagles or to crash and burn because there’s nothing upstairs.
Fistic Mystic has some predictions to make regarding the outcome of the debate.
- Rudy Giuliani – His background as an attorney works to his advantage here. Giuliani is a born performer, the kind of publicity hound who seeks out cameras and audiences, and he has good (not quite great) rhetorical skills. Time spent in front of judges and juries pays off here – Giuliani should be well-prepared and quick on his feet.
- Mike Huckabee – Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor, has been preaching since he was 16 years old, and it shows. His style is folksy, humorous, and inoffensive, even when discussing potentially dangerous subjects. Huckabee is a talented extemporaneous speaker, and his grasp of the issues is better than most people realize. Unlike many people, Huckabee has the ability to crack jokes on nearly any subject without sounding like he’s trying too hard.
- John McCain – McCain has proved time and again his ability to speak from the heart and to express his convictions and talk about his feelings without reservation or shame. His years as a POW give him unrivalled credibility, and as a result he can speak freely and know that people are taking him seriously. This gives McCain a confidence and liberty while speaking that few others enjoy.
- Ron Paul – Paul’s libertarian leanings, quacking delivery, and flaky supporters have kept him from cracking the Republican first tier despite eye-popping fundraising numbers. But Paul is just about perfect for the Libertarian Party ticket. The most likely outcome for Paul is that he switches parties long before the general election, and everybody knows it. He can’t fake Republicanism any better in a debate than he can on the campaign trail.
- Mitt Romney – Romney has a tendency to come across as a bit of a stuffed shirt, which is unfortunate. The truth is that although he is intelligent and well educated, he just doesn’t have the kind of life experience that breeds passionate issues-oriented oratory. Romney is a yankee born to wealth and groomed for a life as a businessman. The best guess here is that in the context of this debate, his lack of personality will be too great a handicap to overcome. (note to Mitt – You can’t fake the personality thing; see Al Gore for further details)
- Tom Tancredo – Tancredo has little to gain from this debate appearance; he’s already boosted his name recognition by virtue of the notorious immigration/terrorism TV ad his campaign has been running in Iowa. Due to the single-issue image he has cultivated and the harsh rhetoric and imagery he has used, Tancredo tends to come off a little bit on the extremist side. Maybe he can use the debate to soften his image, but in light of his performance so far, that seems doubtful.
- Fred Thompson – Thompson is a wreck, and things aren’t going to get any better at the debate. He’s good with a script, but this event is as unscripted as they come. Even worse, Thompson suffers in direct comparison to his main rival for conservative, Evangelical, and Southern votes, Mike Huckabee. Sharing a stage with Huckabee is likely to be poisonous for Thompson, and he probably knows it.
Too Tough to Call:
- Duncan Hunter – Hunter probably benefits from the TV time, since he suffers from a lack of name recognition and funds. He also suffers due to his image as a crusty old man. But will the image improve under the TV lights, or will it be reinforced? Another question: will Hunter’s somewhat inflammatory platform translate into inflammatory language when he speaks off-the-cuff?