Debate prep

Candidates spar with stand-ins in preparation for upcoming debates.

Published September 23, 2008 4:42PM (EDT)

The first of three presidential debates is this Friday. The topic is foreign policy. (Question: Why would John McCain’s camp agree to have the only debate held on a Friday night be the one that its guy is supposed to dominate? The other three presidential/vice-presidential debates are on weeknights other than Friday.)

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Joe Biden sparred with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, while former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is the stand-in sparring partner for McCain. (Barack Obama is sparring with Greg Craig, himself a veteran stand-in.)

In case you didn’t know or notice, Granhom and Steele are, respectively, a woman and an African-American. I’m all for opening up the debate prep process to new faces, since debate prep historically has been as dominated by white men as the nominations have. As it happens, later this week Salon will be publishing a conversation on the topic of preparing for and performing in presidential debates, which I am moderating and will include three such white men: Republican consultant Stuart Stevens and Democratic consultant Mark Fabiani (both of whom have prepped presidential and/or vice-presidential nominees in the past), plus the Atlantic's James Fallows, who wrote long pieces in 2004 previewing the Bush-Kerry debates and another last month previewing the upcoming McCain-Obama matchup. I guess we will learn from our panelists whether and to what degree it matters that the simulated practice sessions achieve this level of approximation.

On a related note, Jon Chait makes a funny about Steele serving as Obama's stand-in.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Joe Biden John Mccain R-ariz.