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David Pakman: What debates don’t deliver

David Pakman, columnist

JERREY ROBERTS David Pakman, columnist Purchase photo reprints »

With every pre-debate day that Romney fails to close the gap, the pressure mounts for the debates to cause a significant swing — one that while not impossible, becomes less and less likely with each passing day. John F. Kennedy made up six points in the national Gallup poll after the first televised debate with Richard Nixon in 1960. In 1980, Ronald Reagan made up nine points against Jimmy Carter. However, this is easier said than done, particularly with the recent trend of a “conservative” debate strategy, refraining from bold attacks and little if any real “debate” between the candidates for fear — in part — of being seen as overly aggressive by voters.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect the debates to be anything other than carefully practiced and rehearsed talking points from either side, riddled with pivoting away from definitive answers of any real kind.

Instant on-screen fact checking during the live debates would be incredibly useful and welcome, but it’s hard to imagine the campaigns ever agreeing to such a thing. Additionally, if viewers actually read a transcript of candidates’ answers as opposed to watching and hearing them delivered, it would become instantly apparent that rarely is a question truly answered.
To that end, maybe it fits that debates rarely change the course of an election.

Let’s not forget the other reason why the effect of the debates could be smaller than ever barring an unforeseen and unprecedented disaster for one of the two candidates: There is more “early voting” than ever taking place. This year, 44.8 percent of voters live in states that have started early and absentee voting as of Sept. 22. With this trend continuing, more voters than in any other election likely will have voted before the first words are spoken in Denver at the first debate.

David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, “The David Pakman Show,” writes a monthly column. He can be reached at davidpakman.com .

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