Stick To Three

Yesterday, we outlined the benefits for Obama from more debates: as promised, here are the consequences.

Experience? Really?: We previously wrote that more debates could “elevate the allegedly inexperienced Obama, granting him a level of credibility unlikely to be earned in only two or three face-to-face matchups.” However, delve into the Democratic primaries to find a ready counterexample.

Obama endured a grueling twenty-six debates during the primary season, appearing one-on-one with Hillary for the last six. Despite the abundance of opportunities to convey experience, he always faltered, his fumbling nature paling in comparison to Hillary’s fluency on wonky topics.

Among voters considering experience the most important quality in a candidate, Obama performed the same at the beginning of the primaries as at the end – single-digits. Even after sixteen months of campaigning and twenty-six debates, he did not significantly assuage the inexperience fears. Translate these woes to the general election, and no number of debates will mitigate the inexperience factor.

Suit Up, You’re In: Currently, McCain has to claw for attention, a reflection of the torrential enthusiasm surrounding Democrats and the stupor afflicting Republicans. However, a heavy debate schedule grants the Arizonan plenty of free media exposure, essential for a financially-strapped campaign. Each debate provokes a burst of publicity and provides the venue for McCain to relay his message. With more debates, the Obama campaign lets McCain onto the field when they could keep him half-stuck in the locker room.

Opportunity Cost: Spending time preparing for and attending debates prevents Obama from campaigning, whether through mega-rallies or round tables spotlighting a specific issue.  And as the primaries indicated, when Obama’s team blankets a region, the candidate’s poll numbers skyrocket.  Witness Texas and Pennsylvania, where the campaign slashed twenty point deficits in half.

Also consider the cost of switching mediums.  Obama performs better at rallies than at debates, while McCain excels in town-hall settings compared to formal speech environments.  With more debates, McCain has more opportunities in a favorable environment.

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