Towery: Top Five Things To Watch For in Debate

Tuesday, 02 Oct 2012 07:43 PM

By Paul Scicchitano

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With both Mitt Romney and President Obama being criticized for speaking in generalities, Pollster Matt Towery tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview that Wednesday’s presidential debate will ultimately be decided by the candidate who comes armed with a “loaded basket” of ideas.

Newsmax and Towery’s InsiderAdvantage polling firm are teaming up to conduct a nationwide “flash poll” immediately following Wednesday’s debate. The poll results are expected within 45 minutes after Romney and Obama make their final pitches to the American public in the first — and what appears to be shaping up as the most critical — of the three planned presidential debates leading up the Nov. 6 election.

Urgent Poll: Romney Vs. Obama – VOTE NOW!

“The person who appears to have a loaded basket full of ideas or observations is going to win this first debate,” Towery asserted. “The generalities are not going to get anybody anywhere.”

quayle-bentsen-debate-1988-ap.jpg
Sens. Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle shake hands after their vice presidential debate in 1988. Bentsen appeared to be scolding Quayle.
(AP Photo)
That’s because the GOP presidential nominee “suffers from a general view that he speaks in generalities and . . . the rap on Obama is that he tends to be sort of general because he has to read off the teleprompter,” observed Towery, who was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s first political debate coach. “Whoever can demonstrate any degree of ability beyond this is going to be the one that I think is going to win that debate.”

Unlike traditional polls that rely on outbound calls, the InsiderAdvantage Newsmax Debate Poll will be based on a group of several thousand randomly selected registered voters from around the United States who agreed in advance to call an 800 number in the first 20 minutes following the debate with their choice for the winner.

“The only non-random part is those who decide to call in and don’t’ call in, but we have a big enough pool so that that doesn’t really matter because we weight it down from Democrats, Republicans, independents or whatever,” said Towery, who first developed the methodology for a 2007 Republican primary debate before using it during the McCain/Obama debates in the 2008 presidential race. “Every time we did it we had to shut the lines off because people kept calling after the 20 minutes.”
bush-gore-debate-2000-ap.jpg
Then Gov. George W. Bush used a smile to disarm Vice President Al Gore during a 2000 debate.
(AP Photo)


Here are the top five things that Towery will be looking for when the two candidates go toe to toe at the University of Denver in Colorado:
  1. Which candidate does a better job of being an “aggressor” while trying not to seem too aggressive? “That is so important,” he said. “If you go back to the history of presidential debates, the person who appeared to be a little more on their toes, a little sharper, a little more with it generally goes on to win the debate series — maybe not every debate — but win the debate series, and goes on to win the presidency.”
  2. Does one candidate appear to have a better command of a “big” issue while the other appears to flub their response? “That debate probably goes to the person who didn’t flub it,” said Towery.
  3. Have either of the candidates delivered a memorable response? “I want to see if either one of the candidates ends up with a phrase that’s memorable from this first debate,” he said. “If I were Romney I would be looking towards searching high and low because he needs something that people will remember him from this first debate.”
  4. Who was ultimately clearest in terms of what they plan to do for the American people as president? “You know debates are about not just what have you done, but what are you going to do for me? I mean everybody wants to know what have you done for me lately? And in the instance of Barack Obama, he’s done a pretty good job . . . of framing the catastrophe of 2008, and saying ‘hey we’re better off than we were in 2008,’” said Towery. “Where he’s not so strong is what he has already said he’s going to do starting next year — implementation of his programs, other promises he’s made, the impact.”
  5. Which candidate did a better job of conveying the facts to support their positions? “Even if what you say is gibberish it comes across in the minds of the public as ‘hey this guy has a plan,’” said Towery, who noted that candidates sometimes number or letter their points — or even begin counting on their fingers — to demonstrate their command of the facts.
In addition to those five things, Towery will also be looking for physical cues — George H.W. Bush looking at his watch, George W. Bush deflecting an overly aggressive Al Gore, and Dan Quayle looking straight into the cameras as he was being admonished by Lloyd Bentsen.

Urgent Poll: Romney Vs. Obama – VOTE NOW!

“In this case Romney is going to have to come out and hit Obama with something that doesn’t appear too harsh or harsh enough,” said Towery. “And he’s going to have to do it in a very physically strong way. In other words he’s going to have to look at the president when he speaks.”

One of the biggest mistakes a candidate can make is looking out into the audience when their opponent is speaking about them.

“It gives the appearance on camera that they’re being admonished and they have no answer,” he said, pointing to the case of Quayle who looked like a “scolded puppy” when Bentsen delivered his famous line: “You’re no Jack Kennedy.”

The candidates “need to look each other in the eye” when they speak, according to Towery, who said that even a candidate’s choice of clothing can sway voters.

“While Romney looks presidential, I personally think they’re overdressing the man,” he said. “You’re allowed to wear a suit. Don’t get me wrong, but the suit doesn’t have to look like it cost $10,000-15,000 to be effective.”

In addition to a good right hook on the issues, a good punchline won’t hurt either.

“If there’s ever something that ends up carrying these debates and that people don’t anticipate it’s real humor,” added Towery, who recalled Al Gore trying to make his point by encroaching on Bush’s personal space.

“Bush didn’t say anything. He just made sort of that funny little face he used to make with a smile — like what are you doing here? And people laughed.”

Urgent Poll: Romney Vs. Obama – VOTE NOW!


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