Are we overthinking these debates?

While pundits and bloggers “score” the presidential debates, Frank Luntz brings in focus groups, consisting of two to three dozen likely primary voters, and assesses their reaction. One of his tools is an instrument that enables participants to register their approval or disapproval of statements made by the candidate-debaters in real time. We lawyers sometimes use the same tool when preparing for trial in order to assess which arguments and pieces of testimony are likely to move jurors.
Luntz’s Democratic focus groups liked Edwards the most on Sunday and his Republican counterpart preferred Romney yesterday. This contrasts with what I take to be the “mainstream” consensus that Clinton and Giuliani performed the best. Edwards and Romney are the two major candidates who court with the least amount of nuance the anti-war left and traditional conservatives, respectively.
Maybe it’s just that simple.
JOHN adds: Yes. Or maybe it’s as simple as the fact that Edwards and Romney are both nice-looking guys who talk smoothly. I’m skeptical, though; I think that most people who watched the debate last night would come away thinking that Giuliani and McCain were the most presidential.


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