YouTube Debate Preview

Politico’s Mike Allen has a pretty good round up of tonight’s political festivities not only four hours away. Another great round up is a personal favorite source of mine, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza who takes a hard look at the top four candidates as we head into this debate.

Since the last debate, not much has changed, particularly in trends; Hillary is still soaring, Obama seems stuck in stasis, Edwards is falling, and despite terrible debate performances, Governor Bill Richardson is somehow climbing his way into the main fray. Despite solid debate performances, mastery of knowledge, and solid experience, Joe Biden can’t buy a break, and despite whining about fair time, the lackluster Chris Dodd can’t seem to buy one either. As for the two moonbats of the field, I am personally looking forward to Senator Mike Gravel pissing me off more than ever, while we will all be wondering which of the three Dennis Kuciniches will decide to show up tonight; the calm, nearly presidential Dennis of the first debate, the rabid Dennis of the second, or the crowd master of the third.

Meanwhile, CNN’s Bill Schneider is pondering whether or not this will be a gang up on Clinton. With the former first lady skying well above everyone else in the running, one has to ask at what point does everyone gang up on the presumptive nominee?

Chances are, not tonight.

I think it is reasonable to assume that with the ever increasing role the internet is playing in politics, we are currently watching a major paradigm shift in politics. Until now, campaigns were about message control and camp discipline, but with the amorphous and anonymous quality of the internet becoming a major player in horse race, those old standards will continue to be much more difficult to meet.

The problem with the paradigm shift is that the candidates aren’t ready for it. They’re for the most part coping and learning, and politics in general I don’t think has hit the point where it absorbs the internet ergonomically in its greater machine.

It is in this context that the debates tonight will be held. Candidates are used to not knowing exactly what the questions for a debate will be, but only those with incredibly poor staffers are ever truly surprised by what they are asked. Debate boot camps are a common occurance, geared towards the inevitable questions the candidates are almost guaranteed to have.

But I think tonight we will see that at least once or twice that such cram sessions will poorly equip our presidential hopefuls. Not that I’m so naive to think that CNN will choose out of the hat as many off the wall questions as possible, but I would put money on them picking at least a couple of really tricky ones.

And then we get to watch them flop and twitch.

It is in this context where I don’t think anyone will have a chance to establish a unified front against the frontrunner. Given the anxiety over the uncontrolled quality of this debate, I believe that most of the candidates will be so focused on not gaffing the unusual questions to try and stick it to the (wo)man. In a strange turn of events, the two least likely candidates, Gravel and Kucinich, will most likely not be put off much by the user generated questions, and will therefore mount an attack on the frontrunners…

…but let’s not all be shocked by that particular development, yes?

Other things to look for is Obama’s improvement; he’s been improving steadily thus far, and despite the unusual format and content, look for him to again improve upon past performances. Also, Edwards is at crunch time. His aggressiveness in the last debate was seen by many, including yours truly, as a mistake. As we see Edwards gradually dropping out of the running, what kind of last ditch performance will we see from him to stay in the game. As for Hillary, it’ll be interesting to see if she can maintain her unblemished record for a fourth debate in a row.

Tonight, I’ve got Alicia confirmed, and Mike has said he’ll make it if he can. So be sure to get your webcasts going or tv’s fired up, and don’t forget to stop on by and join us for our liveblogging debate discussion.

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