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Jason Holliston
Monday, September 27, 2004  
The Debates of 2004

It's that time of the presidential election cycle again: the debates. More often that not, they're not worth watching if you've been paying attention to the political scene, but once in a while, they surprise you. There have been some stirring moments in the past. Lloyd Bentsen destroyed Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice-Presidential debates with this:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.

Then there was Ronald Reagan probably sealing President Carter's coffin with the line, "There you go again." From the eHistory Web site:

During the first part of the debate, the issues of Iran, the hostages, and terrorism were discussed. This was followed by a second round in which arms control, the energy problem, and social security were covered. At the point Jimmy Carter began to attack Reagan on his record concerning Medicare. Reagan responded to Carter, screwed himself up to his full height, looked at the president of the United States and said, shaking his head, "There you go again." Ronald Reagan corrected the president of the United States as if he were a fresh-faced stumbling school boy.

The first sealed a solid debate win, but the winner didn't go on to take all the marbles. The second did, in almost record fashion. In other words, they can matter -- a lot, sometimes.

With Kerry falling so badly behind in the polls with just over a month to go, he'll have to bring out all the stops. He's a knowledgeable person, and probably won't trip up on his words, or make some bad miscalculation. Still, the President will win the debates, and for one simple reason: he's much more likeable to the average American. Kerry comes across as condescending and elitist. That may play well in large areas of his home state of Massachusetts, but it doesn't in most of the country. Those that think that the President will trip up are advised to read the transcripts of his debates with Al Gore four years ago. Everyone was sure that George Bush had the intelligence of a rock, but he did fine against what many people "in the know" thought to be one of the smartest politicians in recent memory. President Bush wouldn't win any debating trophies in Oxford, but he'll do fine with the American people, and that's what counts in the end.

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