Disclosure: I worked for the Lamont campaign doing web design and production and some writing for the official blog (from 9/5/06 to 11/07/06).

Monday, July 03, 2006


Debate Expectations

There's only a few days left before the debate - with a holiday dead zone in between - so time is of the essence as both sides expectedly go about trying to set the bar lower for their own candidate and higher for their opponent. Sean Smith and Marion Steinfels did this in the run-up to the convention, repeatedly trying to set what they were certain was an unreachable bar of 30% of the delegates for Lamont, who promptly proceeded to surpass even their unrealistic expectations.

But unlike the convention, where many delegates' votes were uncertain until the last moment, the facts surrounding the debate are clear, and really blunt the impact of these expectations games.

Fact: Joe Lieberman is an experienced 18-year incumbent senator, who has run for Vice President once and President once, debating on the biggest national stage with the likes of Dick Cheney and John Kerry. He dispatched an 18-year incumbent himself in 1988, with his very good performances in debates against Lowell Weicker playing a key role in his election victory. In comparison, Ned Lamont is a complete neophyte as a debater, someone who until a few months ago never envisioned a future in politics. The television audience he faces on Thursday night will likely be the biggest he has ever faced.

Fact: Ned Lamont has challenged Joe Lieberman to a series of debates. Lieberman has so far only agreed to one. Yet, as three political science professors noted in yesterday's Courant, it's Joe who needs these debates, and the pressure is squarely on him:

"The fact Lieberman feels he has to debate him is a big victory already," said professor Don Greenberg, chairman of Fairfield University's political science department. "Lieberman has to convince Democrats they really can't afford to switch horses."

"He really is in a situation where he has to debate," said Gary Rose, chairman of the history and political science department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. "This is his way of really thwarting or attempting to thwart the roll Lamont is on. . . . To remain quiet would only give Lamont more opportunity to define him."...

...Ken Dautrich, a professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut, said he was surprised Lamont would want to "go toe to toe to someone who's been a vice presidential candidate."

While it may be politically unwise for Lamont to give the far more experienced Lieberman a chance to take him apart in a debate, it's not surprising that he would do so. From the beginning, the Lamont campaign has focused on talking about issues important to Connecticut Democrats - issues that Joe Lieberman has either ignored or been on the wrong side of for years. Debates like this one give the party a chance to have this discussion. It says a lot about the candidates' respective senses of obligation to their constituents that Lieberman is the one who doesn't want to hold more than one debate, when it's Lamont who has much more to lose by doing so.

So when Joe unleashes his personal attacks on Ned Lamont during the debate, remember the real reasons why each candidate is showing up to this debate in the first place. One is doing so because he has to, the other is doing so because he wants to.
That sounds like a laudable thought but if Lamont is going to jeapordize his position because he is a poor debater, who cares that it's a laudable position.
Jeez, I hope he does tremendous amount of prepping!!!
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