Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Links (9/17/08): Debate Edition

If you're like me, you've been waiting on the next big thing in this presidential campaign: the debates. Well, we're a little over a week away from the first debate between John McCain and Barack Obama on Friday, September 26.

If you want a look back at debates past, PBS has an updated version of their documentary, Debating Our Destiny, up on their site. This is a condensed version of the original that packs the televised debates between 1960 1976 and 1996 into the first twenty or so minutes before giving a more in-depth treatment to the debates from the last two cycles. These include not only clips of the debates but interviews with the candidates themselves. Good stuff.

Also, as I alluded to in my comment in a previous post, there is a difference in the formats from four years ago to now. Here is the break down from the Commission on Presidential Debates:

First presidential debate:
Friday, September 26
University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

Vice presidential debate:
Thursday, October 2
Washington University in St. Louis, MO

Second presidential debate:
Tuesday, October 7
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

Third presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 15
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

But those are only the locations. The first, third and vice presidential debates will be sit-down discussions at a table with the moderator. The second debate will be a town hall event. None of those formats break terribly far from the previous model of presidential debates, but the fact that the first (domestic) (foreign policy*) and final (foreign policy) (domestic) debates will be divided into 8 ten minute issue segments is a different approach. One additional quirk is the effort between the Commission and MySpace ( to allow for online streaming of the debates as well internet questions to be submitted for use in the town hall debate. Sadly, this will not include video questions from snowmen describing the downside of global warming. Democracy has its limits, I suppose.

As a wrap up to convention season, Tom Holbrook has a comparison of the his predictions for this year's conventions and the actual bumps they produced. FHQ will be back later in the day with its own examination of the changes on the state level.

One last and unrelated thing: If you are in search of something to do with a few spare seconds, check out the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. And if you have a few more spare seconds post your new names here. Tell 'em Stag Tonnage Palin sent you. (H/t to Enik Rising for the link.)

*It is sad that the Commission actually in charge of putting these debates on doesn't have this information readily available. However the University of Mississippi, where the first debate is being held, confirms that the focus that night will be on foreign policy issues. Thanks to reader, Erik Redin, for the scoop. Now I want some answers. How long after Obama clinched the nomination was this decision made? How long did it take for it to be realized that the location of one of the most visible demonstrations of college admissions segregation would not, perhaps, be the best venue for a debate on domestic issues? And why did this news not see the light of day. As recently as August 6, when the Commission announced its selections for debate moderators, Ole Miss was under the impression that the debate was still on domestic issues. This is strange. I have a couple of potential contacts at Ole Miss. I'll see what I can find out.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/17/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/16/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/15/08)


Meg E. Cox said...

The significance of the first debate being at the University of Mississippi in Oxford is stunning.

Meg, civil rights history buff

SarahLawrenceScott said...

The Holbrook piece you link to verges on inane. A model for the Obama convention bump that treats data collected during the Republican convention as its post-convention read without accounting for that fact is bound to give spurious predictions. Holbrook really shouldn't look any further than that to explain his results.

Erik Redin said...

I believe the topics of the first and third debates have been switched because of concerns the "domestic policy" debate would be overwhelmed with race questions due to the location.

Josh Putnam said...

Ouch. No, I was moderately disappointed when I clicked on that post. I was hoping for an inclusion of the 08 conventions on the nice, Stata-generated graphs Holbrook had in the predictions posts. Alas, he went in a different direction.

But you're right, Scott, this convention season was not one from which bounces could be easily teased (which you mentioned in you comment to his first bounce post), especially the Democratic convention.

Holbrook's book is in its first edition and that only covers the elections up through 1992. I'd like to see an updated treatment with a flushed out analysis of the recent elections, but the 2008 one in particular.

Incidentally, he and Jay De Sart are due to release their election forecast during the first week in October. It includes not only national polls but state polls as well. I'll be interested to see what their results are in addition to Gurian and Cann's. Both bring in state level factors that some of the other models omit.

Josh Putnam said...

Nate Silver had said in an earlier post at FiveThirtyEight that the first debate was to be focused on foreign policy, but I have yet to find any documentation of the switch anywhere -- at that time or now. I'll admit the linked press release from the commission is dated, but that's all I've seen on the subject. If you can find some documentation on the change, I'll be glad to make the correction.

The release concerning the selection of moderators simply says that one debate will focus on foreign policy issues and another will be about domestic, but it doesn't specify which one. I'll keep looking.