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Debates by political candidates help provide voters with information they need to make an intelligent choice at the polls. Debates help get the public interested in an election and educate voters about issues. Candidates involved in debates have another goal: to get elected. Wichita State University debate coach Jeff Jarman comments on the significance of this year's vice presidential and presidential candidate debates.
Announcer: Many Americans will watch the presidential and vice presidential candidates' debate, but how many will change their minds on whom to vote for on Election Day? Wichita State University debate coach Jeff Jarman says the key is influencing the undecided voters, especially in the swing states.
Jarman: "A lot of voters will have their minds made up by the time the debates occur, but there will be a large segment of people who are undecided, and that's who the candidates will target. Those undecided voters will be influenced by these debates."
Announcer: Political debates don't always occur in races further down the ballot, according to Jarman, because there's little incentive for incumbents. Jarman says the challengers typically need as many debates as they can get. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.
Sound bite #1
Jarman talks about the significance of this year's presidential and vice presidential debates. The sound bite is 19 seconds and the outcue is "feel good about that."
Jarman: "Well, the debates are especially important, both in terms of educating voters, letting them watch their candidates', learn about issues. They're also really helpful for undecided voters as they might make a decision. And they're really good at helping ensure that the candidate you want to vote for, you feel good about that.
Sound bite #2
Jarman says the success or failure of a candidate in a debate is often determined by the expectations. The sound bite is 18 seconds and the outcue is "the expectations."
Jarman: "Both campaigns will work hard in the days before the debate to help frame the expectations for their candidates. If you can set them low for your candidate, then it's easy to look like you won. If they're set too high, then it's very difficult to reach that mark, and it will appear that you did not perform well, because you didn't meet the expectations."
Sound bite #3
Jarman says the format for the presidential debates this year should be an improvement for the voting public. The sound bite is 19 seconds and the outcue is "better for the public."
Jarman: "Two of the presidential debates this year will use a different format. They'll use eight 10-minute time blocks to try to further the dialogue, the discussion to really ramp up the knowledge for voters. (It's) still not going to be perfect. It will be hard to discuss complex issues in just 10 minutes, but certainly better for the public."
Sound bite #4
Jarman says the hard part for candidates is coming up with a memorable line during the debate that helps the campaign. The sound bite is 17 seconds and the outcue is "help the campaign."
Jarman: "Both campaigns will work hard to rehearse and prepare particularly powerful lines. The hard part is that you never know which one is going to catch on with the public and the media. You just hope that you said something and you said it well, and that it does catch on and help the campaign."
Sound bite #5
Jarman says presidential candidates hope they don't commit a big gaffe during a debate. The sound bite is 19 seconds and the outcue is "very many."
Jarman: "Well, one big concern for the candidates is that they don't misspeak or say something wrong or otherwise commit a big gaffe during the debates. Since a lot of your voters are already committed, what you don't want to do is lose voters as a result of participating in the debates. You can only win a couple, so you certainly don't want to lose very many."
Sound bite #6
Jarman says political candidates running for lower offices, especially incumbents, aren't always willing to debate. The sound bite is 23 seconds and the outcue is "as they can get."
Jarman: "Political debates occur at other levels, too, further down the ballot. We expect the presidential candidates' debate, but races that occur at lower levels don't always debate. Candidates have to ask themselves, 'what's in it for me?' Incumbents oftentimes want to limit debates because they're ahead already and have no incentive. It's the challengers who regularly need as many debates as they can get."
Sound bite #7
Jarman explains what he looks for during a debate. The sound bite is 22 seconds and the outcue is "in their comments."
Jarman: "When I listen to debates I try to watch for statements that I know are exaggerations or misleading, distortions of their record or their opponents. It's hard to fact check every comment, but it's frustrating when you see politicians, when you see candidates really stretching the bounds of truth. If debates are supposed to be about educating citizens, we need them to be more forthright in their comments."