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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Obama’s Goals

1. Appear to be the adult in the room. Cool-headedness may play well tonight.

2. Explain the economic crisis in terms even a 10-year-old could understand.

3. Force McCain to commit to a particular position on the bailout.

4. Tie the foreign policy debate to the economy.

5. Deflect accusations that he is too aloof by showing some humor.

6. Acknowledge the success of the surge, but ask whether the war has made us better off than we were six years ago.

7. Combat the perception that he would be too slow to send us into a good war.

8. Recognize that, while a tie goes to him because he’s ahead in the polls, he has sometimes done poorly when he’s tried to play it too safe.

McCain’s Goals

1. Avoid appearing too impulsive, and explain what in the hell he’s been up to for the past 48 hours.

2. Explain the economic crisis in terms even a 10-year-old could understand.

3. Force Obama to commit to a specific position on the bailout.

4. Tie the foreign policy debate to gas prices and the energy crsis.

5. Deflect accusations that he is too hot-tempered by showing some humility.

6. Recognize that public opinion has improved significantly on Iraq; tout the success of the surge.

7. Combat the perception that he would be too quick to send us into a bad war.

8. Recognize that, while he needs to make up siginficant ground, he is probably too far behind to turn the election around in one night, and that gimmickry may not sell.

*** Also, Ross Smith, the head coach of Wake Forest University’s outstanding debate team, has an outstanding preview up of what to watch for tonight.

…and for our New York area readers, I’ll be on WNYC at the top of some point during the hour. EDIT: Actually, anybody should be able to listen here.

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