Campaign Headlines October 2, 2012: Julian Zelizer: The mistakes candidates make in debates

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

The mistakes candidates make in debates

Source: Julian Zelizer, CNN, 10-2-12

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Best moments from presidential debates

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Julian Zelizer: Top priority for candidates in debates is to avoid mistakes
    • He says gaffes have the potential to change how voters view a candidate
    • Candidates are viewed not only for what they say but for their body language, he says
    • Zelizer: Obama, Romney will be under a microscope Wednesday night when the debates begin

Editor’s note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” and of the new book “Governing America.”

(CNN) — Commentators usually make too much of presidential debates. Social science data consistently show that there are very few presidential debates that make a huge difference in the dynamics of a campaign — other than a few exceptions where the race was incredibly narrow, as in 1960 or 2000, and the performance of candidates had some impact.

Regardless of whether they are game-changers, the presidential debates are still an important part of the broader narrative about each candidate that voters evaluate when they step into the voting booth in November.

More important than doing well is avoiding mistakes. Particularly in the current age of YouTube and nightly political news comedy, any slip-up can become fodder for the 24-hour news cycle. The last thing that a candidate wants to do is provide material for the “Saturday Night Live” comedy writers who are eagerly preparing for the next show.

The mistakes the presidential candidates have made over the years are numerous. Poor body language has been a common blunder. As much as candidates focus on perfecting the substance of what they say before the cameras, a large number of Americans are really most interested to see how they say it….READ MORE

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