What do Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State, and Chris Broderick, guitarist with thrash metal band Megadeth, have in common?
Do they favour the same brand of breakfast cereal? It’s possible. Are they aficionados of the 1983 sci-fi television mini-series ‘V’, a compelling allegory of Nazi persecution? Maybe. Perhaps they both enjoy the cool comfort of 600 thread-count luxury Egyptian cotton sheets? I know I do.
Or do they relax of an evening in a comfortable lay-z-boy, a dry sherry to hand, with eyes closed and a smile gently flickering across their collective face, as they listen to a recording of Paco de Lucia playing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez? This may well be true. Condi is known for her love of classical music, and Chris studied classical guitar, rating Paco as his favourite guitarist.
What they actually have in common is that they are alumni of the University of Denver. And what is so special about this university, I hear you ask? I’ll tell you. It is the venue for the first 2012 Presidential debate. This Wednesday, Obama and Romney will meet in the Magness Arena at the University of Denver to debate domestic policy.
Over the past week, both camps have been downplaying expectations about the performance of their man. The Republican team having been bigging up the debating skills of Obama, while the Democrats have been stressing their opponent’s focus on the debates (David Axelrod commented that the invasion of Normandy took less preparation than Romney is putting into the debates).
In his skirmishes with fellow candidates earlier this year, Romney’s tendency to Flashmanise (see D. Cameron, PMQs passim) when under pressure gave viewers a peek behind his normally rather reasonable facade, and revealed a political naivety that has come back to haunt him throughout his campaign (“Wanna bet? 10,000 bucks?“). Admittedly his opponents were not the sharpest tools in the debating box, but both Newt (blunt hammer) and Santorum (screwdriver) managed to score some decent hits (Santorum, in fact, started the debates as the kiddie desperate to play with the big boys and ended them as a force to be reckoned with – a strange, shale-wielding force, but a force all the same).
Can television debates make a difference in an election? Research suggests that winning a debate can have a short-term impact on voting intentions, and the ensuing media coverage can help inform voters who did not watch the debates. So it’s all to play for, right? Well, that’s debatable (see what I did there). According to a 2008 Gallop poll, only two presidential debates, Kennedy vs. Nixon and Gore vs. Bush, had a significant impact on the outcome of an election. The Daily Beast has more on that here.
Sadly for Romney, it is looking pretty tricky. The polls make for grim reading, and he can expect a few uncomfortable moments in this first debate over his taxes and the now infamous 47 per cent comment. Obama, to be fair, cannot take a win for granted. He is working hard to persuade the electorate that the 2008 stardust still clings to him, that the change he promised can still be a reality.
Perhaps the debates should be spiced up a bit. Make them debate in costume. Or in verse. How about Fight Club? The first rule of Presidential Debate Club? You don’t talk about Presi … oh well, that’s out for a start. The levees of Twitter will surely burst on Wednesday evening as waves of comment, judgement, insult and ridicule pour across the Twittersphere.
I hope that both candidates will at least indulge in a cheeky bit of sledging, the amusing practise of aiming insults at an opponent to put them off. Nothing they say, however, will ever surpass the now-legendary comments from two international cricketers during a game:
Bowler to batsman: “Why are you so fucking fat?”
Batsman to bowler: “Because every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a biscuit”
By the way, the Megadeth genius strummer ain’t wrong. Paco de Lucia is the master, and this is dreamy, stirring, wonderful stuff.