Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Debate Ahead

Tonight, eight Republican presidential candidates square off again for two hours of highly structured questions and answers.  This time, the debate takes place on the campus of Oakland University and will be televised by CNBC. 

What to expect?

At a correspondents breakfast this morning, debate moderators Maria Bartiromo and John Harwood forecast that the debate would center primarily around jobs and the economy.  The Michigan setting lends itself to that discussion, since the Enchanted Mitten is home to a reawakening automobile industry and a burgeoning renaissance of its own, courtesy of a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature.

Still, we won't escape more questions on the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations.  Should this be a topic during this precious time?  Good question, but here's why I think these questions will get asked:

1.  This is television, it's about viewers and ratings.  The prurient element is a big ratings-getter.

2.  It's the topic of the day, especially with Cain's press conference yesterday.

3.  The moderators will want to see whether the other seven will rise to the occasion (sorry about that) and try to take advantage of Cain's misfortune.

4.  Voters are certainly interested in whether a candidate can handle a crisis, especially since Obama has demonstrated he cannot.  These unconfirmed allegations may not be worthy of much, it's hard to say, but this is a situation where a nonsubstantive issue bumps up against the need to discern character, composure, and integrity.

We'll see how it goes.

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