The Nose: What Do Presidential Debates Accomplish?

Oct 28, 2011

The question is bubbling up right now because Texas governor Rick Perry wants to stop participating in debates. In fact, he told Bill O'Reilly, “These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates. So, you know, if there was a mistake made, it was probably ever doing" a debate.

That might be the wrong way to put it. It's like a kid saying basketball is a dumb game anyway, after he's missed 27 shots in a row. Debates don't always tear down the candidates. They've been inexplicably wonderful for Herman Cain. To an unprecedented degree, in this cycle, debates have been a kind of ongoing stock market. Debates are attracting big TV audiences. There are a lot of them. And they create movement in the polls. Which makes people want to watch more debates.

But do they tell you a lot about the candidate?

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