Horse Trading Rules in Debates

The horse trading that went on to establish the Cheney-Edwards debate rules is telling of Republican fears. Both men will be seated at a table instead of standing in a town hall setting. Why? The Washington Post reports,

Republicans feared such a format would allow Edwards to walk about like a lawyer giving a closing statement and maximize his presumed skill in engaging with ordinary voters. Tad Devine, a Kerry consultant, said this format was one of the concessions the Democratic side made in exchange for Bush's side agreeing to three presidential debates.

Strategically, here's what to expect. Cheney will play the 9/11 card. According to a Republican strategist,

...the vice president will try to bring fresh attention to the themes "that shoot out of the 9/11 set of memories and issues -- preparedness, safety and homeland security."

Edwards, on the other hand, is expected to play up the Administration's failures.

Edwards will summon his skills as a trial lawyer to cast Cheney as the architect of the administration's worst policy judgments, as well as a symbol of corporate excess because of his former position as chief executive of Halliburton, which has received huge Iraq contracts but has also faced accusations of improper billing there. Edwards [has] a unique opportunity to amplify the case Kerry made about the Iraq invasion being a "colossal error" and also shift the campaign conversation toward domestic policy issues, where Democrats historically run stronger.

I think Edwards will present better, particularly to those voters seeking regime change here at home. Cheney is old school, from the old mold. He will capitalize on voters' fears. But voters may be tired of living in fear--particularly now that it's becoming clear that the genesis of those fears is stale threats that never materialized.

If Gephardt was our father's Oldsmobile, Cheney is our grandfather's Model T. Edwards, on the other hand, signifies the future. He is hope for a new day.

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