The nation has two more presidential debates to look forward to — or ignore, as the case may be. After days of exhaustive coverage and annoying analysis of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin‘s recent match with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the two principal players will strut their stuff on Tuesday.
Or try to strut their stuff, anyway. Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama star in the second of three presidential debates.
Other than pray for gaffes and emerge confused, do we really care? Historically speaking, debates don’t matter all that much to Americans.
“Election polling trends since the advent of televised presidential debates a nearly a half-century ago reveal few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. The two exceptions are 1960 and 2000, both very close elections in which even small changes could have determined who won,” says a recent Gallup analysis, based on five decades of voter preference data.
Yet 2008 is so fraught with complications, intrigue and catastrophes that the nation may be swayed by manufactured public events like presidential debates.
“The 2008 debates could be an important factor in shifting voter preferences decisively toward one candidate or the other. With so much economic uncertainty and political activity going on, however, it may be impossible to disentangle the effect of the debates from the effect of other news events on voter preferences at this critical time,” Gallup notes.
“The complexity of real-world events confounding an analysis of the impact of the presidential debates is actually a problem that applies to a review of all of the elections; it’s not a perfect science, and the conclusions drawn here could be debated.”
Now we know
“Elite opinion leaders” have nine ways to approach foreign policy, just in case the topic comes up over cocktails or coffee.
They are Missionaries, Hegemonists, Globalizers, Global Capitalists, Narrow Realists, Progressive Internationalists, Anti-Imperialists, Neighbors and Disengagers, says Chris J. Dolan, a political scientist at Lebanon Valley College.
Some are more popular than others. The most prevalent orientations are hegemonists, globalizers and progressive internationalists; the most infrequent orientations are missionaries, narrow realists and disengagers.
“The findings suggests that there has been even greater diversity in the foreign policy orientations of elites in the wake of the collapse of Soviet Communism and East-West tensions. With the observation of nine orientations, elites have developed more politically and ideologically urbane foreign policy beliefs,” Mr. Dolan observed.
Such a card
Consider buying some baseball cards. Upper Deck — a maker and purveyor of sports memorabilia — has randomly tucked two special political cards into a $5 pack to be released to the public Monday. Officially, the cards are “PP-15 (Palin) and PP-16 (Biden), according to company marketing director Kerri Stockholm.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is depicted as longtime Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson. Gov. Sarah Palin is shown rounding the bases near the White House atop a dogsled and sporting a tiara. For more information, visit www.upperdeck.com or call 800/551-8220.
Days of yore
On this day 71 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a “quarantine” of aggressor nations. “If civilization is to survive, the principles of the Prince of Peace must be restored,” he told an audience in Chicago.
Ten years later - Oct. 5, 1947 - President Harry S. Truman held the first televised presidential address from the White House, calling on Americans to conserve food for postwar Europe.
And who could forget this exchange in a debate between two vice-presidential contenders, which took place in Omaha exactly 20 years ago?
Sen. Dan Quayle: I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.
Mr. Quayle: That was really uncalled for, senator.
See a video clip of the moment at www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_85K_ayRIU.
Quotes of note
“John McCain’s actions are not bipartisan. They are bipolar.” - White House hopeful Bob Barr.
“Politics is combat. And the press are a form of referees.” - Project for Excellence in Journalism director Tom Rosenstiel, to National Journal.
“They’re digging and digging for the bad side, yeah. And there is no real bad side. They’re fabricating a lot of things, which I don’t want to go into.” - Chuck Heath, father of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to CBS.
“Pioneers, beauty queens, and unruly women.” - The sole designations for female politicians in the press, according to Colorado State University communications professor Karrin Vasby Anderson.
By the numbers
62 percent of voters think American society is generally fair and decent.
44 percent say the nation’s best days are still to come.
41 percent believe they have come and gone.
15 percent are not sure.
40 percent say our allies should do “as America wishes,” 34 percent disagree.
72 percent say immigrants who come to America should adopt the culture.
14 percent say immigrants should retain their home country’s culture.
Source: Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters taken Sept. 28.
Contact Jennifer Harper at 202/636-3085 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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