Debate expectations

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

WaPo's Chris Cillizza on tonight's debate:

Who's the Underdog? On the one hand, every state and national poll shows movement toward Obama and his massive spending edge on television appears to be asserting itself in the final month of the campaign. On the other, McCain has done hundreds of townhall meetings in his political career, and was so comfortable with the format that he proposed a series of ten such gatherings with Obama this summer. Despite McCain's skill at townhalls, we still think he's the underdog, based on his disadvantage in polling and fundraising, and the public increasingly blaming his party for the financial crisis gripping the nation.

This nicely illustrates the problematic thinking that goes into the media's assessment of who "wins" debates. Why on earth would McCain's disadvantage in fundraising make him an underdog tonight? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever -- but it does illustrate the fact that too many journalists think about debates in terms of everthing except the one thing that actually matters: Which candidate most successfully shows that s/he is most likely to be the kind of president most viewers want?

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