Candidate’s guide for Wednesday’s Presidential debate

In case Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain weren’t aware of what their strategies should be for Wednesday’s debate, I though I’d arrogantly take it upon myself to explore the current issues, conflicts, and voter sentiment heading into Wednesday’s third and final Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. The debate will air at 9pm eastern, 6pm pacific.

For Senator Obama:

Barack Obama has himself in a fairly good situation right. I use for the fairly only because we still have 3 weeks to go and I believe the race is very fluid. Sen. Obama has managed to convince a majority of voters, according to polls, that he is the one to deal with economic issues. How much of that is praise for Obama’s polices and how much is the anti-incumbent wave after 8 years of President Bush is anyone’s guess.

For the previous two presidential debates, Sen. Obama has sounded plausible with all his answers and came off with a strong control of the subject matter, or at least he came across that way to viewers. He managed to spin off McCain’s attacks and return fire with his trademarked “eight years of failed Bush policies which John McCain supports” line.

I think Obama’s job in Wednesday’s debate is to continue this rhetoric, continue attempting to convince voters he will be ready and able to take the reigns on January 20th, 2009 and be in control of the country’s economic issues. Furthermore, Obama should also continue working to paint his health care plan as the middle ground, between two extremes as his commercials frequently inform me. This works well with moderates.

For Senator McCain:

John McCain, according to the polls, is in a much tougher spot that Sen. Obama at this point. However, as we saw during the primary season, McCain seems to perform well in the underdog role, despite what pundits say. With regard to economics, McCain’s plans might be solid for all we know, however, that doesn’t matter since he is running against 8 years of incumbency and a wave of pro-Democratic sentiment among many voters, especially in swing states.

During the previous two debates, McCain gave decent performances, similar to Obama, however, he wasn’t able to drive much of his message home as an alternative to Sen. Obama’s plans and policies. Viewers of the debates didn’t rate him poorly but they also didn’t give him high grades with regard to where he stands on some the questions posed.

I think McCain’s job during Wednesday’s debate is to pick a line of attack and drive it home if he wishes to make an impact. He has been all over the map the past week attacking Obama’s character and judgment while later in the week seeming to back off from that line of attack. McCain has to pick a path and follow it to the end and create a real choice for voters come November 4th. Furthermore, it wouldn’t hurt McCain to criticize the past 8 years of heavy spending by congress and President Bush as well, however, his main focus should be how he can best represent a stark alternative to Sen. Obama. McCain today has stated that “Ayers will come up at the debate,” a statement which think should have been better left unsaid, even if he intends to do so. I’d advise him to not giveaway his battle plans, as he’s often criticized Obama of doing with regard to Pakistan.

For both candidates:

I don’t think I can stress this enough, and everyone agrees, but answer the darn question! The past two presidential debates were both riddled with occasions where questions were asked and answered with a stump-style campaign speech. Answer the questions and be passionate about it. Explain why you feel that way on an issues, explain the information which led you to that conclusion. The bottom line, just be straight with your responses, give voters something to think about, avoid delivering a campaign speech we’ve all heard about a million times over the past 10 months.

Now for some supporting stories furthering this discussion.

First, some advice for McCain from Politico:

Top Republican strategists believe John McCain’s stalled presidential campaign can only be revived if the Arizona senator takes an immediate and decisive turn in direction, one marked by an almost unwavering focus on the economy and a sharp break from Bush administration economic policy.

While Barack Obama’s past associations with controversial figures such as former radical William Ayers should be a part of McCain’s closing argument, they say, the GOP nominee needs to primarily concentrate on the historic nature of the current economic crisis and explain why he is better suited to lead the country out of it.

“Either McCain wins the argument over the economy or he loses,” said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House. “When the economy is this central to everybody’s life, when everybody is as worried as they are now, then when you are not talking about the economy you are not winning.”

“Can he come back? I think he can. But time is running very short. I would give it about a week, at the most, to turn this around,” said John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist. “We are speaking in angry Greek and the public wants to hear economic English.

“If we think we can make the public care about William Ayers or some other things when they are afraid of losing their jobs, not being able to pay for college or work ten more years because they are worried about their retirements, we are kidding ourselves,” Weaver continued.

McCain needs to simply pick the issues he believes he can win on and drive them home. I believe we will see this strategy employed starting at Wednesday’s debate and then continued the next three weeks.

Obama has been careful in the past couple weeks to remain steady, give speeches off the teleprompter, and attempt to coast these last few weeks with no mistakes on the trail. So far, it’s been working for him and even Biden hasn’t gaffed recently. Obama’s job on Wednesday will be to derail McCain’s efforts to bring his message back on track. If Obama can simply prevent McCain from landing strong attacks on him, he will have succeeded.

So there, tell me where I’m wrong or where I’m right.

We’ll have more on the debate tomorrow with a pre-debate report. The final presidential debate airs Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 at 9pm eastern, 6pm pacific on every major broadcast network and every cable news network.