Debates don’t come easy to most people. In fact, one of the greatest fears that people have is speaking in public. Can you imagine standing up and being picked apart by media people with tens of millions of people watching?
There’s no place to hide in a debate. Once you step on the stage, you are stuck there until time runs out. For the next week, you are going over in your mind what you might have said that was wrong or misunderstood, what you shouldn’t have said, and what you didn’t say. Then there’s the savagery that takes place as the arm-chair debaters pick apart your performance.
There’s no way to prepare for a debate. The material is either in your head or it’s not. All you can do is sharpen yourself with a few new items that are in the news.
When I debate, I prepare a notebook of material that might come up in a debate. This is my “Just in Case” three-ring binder. I only had to use it once. The lawyer I was debating presented a quotation from Supreme Court Justice and constitutional scholar Joseph Story (1779–1845). He read it and then I added the rest of the quotation that nullified the point he was trying to make. Providentially, I had the entire quotation in my binder.
Here are some debate tips for Mitt Romney:
First, do not be over confident. Never say to yourself at any point in the debate, “I’ve got this guy.” You never know what the next question might be.
Second, you are not debating President Obama or his media surrogates. Make your case to the American people. Look the American people in the eye. You’re not there to convince President Obama.
Third, take control of the debate. Just because one of the Obama-supporting media moderators asks a question, doesn’t mean you have to answer it the way he or she expecs you to answer it. Reformulate the question something like this: “The question you should be asking is . . . .”
Joel B. Pollak over at Breitbart says you should “mock the moderator”:
When you’re a Republican, your biggest debate opponent is not the one next to you on the stage but the one in front of you at the moderator’s table.
The moderators help set the outcome for Democrats in three ways: by framing the questions against Republican candidates; by letting Democrats break the rules on time and rebuttals; and by favoring Democrats in post-debate analysis.
The best move in response? Mock the moderator.
It worked for Sen. Scott Brown in 2010, when moderator David Gergen challenged him: “Are you willing . . . to say, I’m going to be the person, I’m going to sit in Teddy Kennedy’s seat and I’m going to be the person that’s gonna block [health reform] for another fifteen years?”
Brown’s aggressive response won him the election: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedy seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat. It’s the people’s seat.”
The only thing I would have changed would have been to leave out “with all due respect.”
Fourth, force the antithesis. Take a liberal policy and show its social, moral, and economic consequences. Most people can’t follow an argument very well. Your answers need to be concrete. Stay away from theory unless you can illustrate it quickly.
Fifth, go into the debate with examples of stories that the media are not covering or are covering up. Point out to viewers that if a Republican had been in office when these things happened, the media would have jumped on him with both feet, gouged his eyes out, and cut his throat. The story would have been on the front page of every liberal newspaper for 20 weeks straight. State that you have no problem with criticism as long as it’s consistently applied.
Sixth, keep Obama on the defensive without directly attacking him. Imagine yourself as the Columbo character played by Peter Falk. Something like this: “I don’t understand how anyone can believe that by taxing productive people that jobs will be created. Americans want to work not receive welfare. Taxing high income earners will not create jobs. It will only grow government and create dependency.”
Seventh, you will be accused of changing your views. You need to turn this into a positive. Of course, you must truly believe in the changes you claim to have made.
Eighth, this is the time to make your case to the conservative base. I’m not sure you can do this because I’m not sure that you are as conservative as your base. This is your biggest problem. You can’t be the “anybody but Obama” candidate. People generally don’t vote for a negative.