Debating the Debates
As many pundits are lathered up about Friday's "make-or-break" debate between Barack Obama and John McCain -- the first of three -- one researcher isn't. Tom Holbrook, a poli-sci professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has combed through the data and made a stunning find: Debates don't matter. Comparing polling from before and after all 13 presidential debates going back to 1988, Holbrook found the average change in candidate support was just 1 percent. The big breakouts were the second debate in 1992, when George H. W. Bush lost 2 points and the first debate of 2004 when Bush II lost just over 2 points. As Holbrook puts it, "I don't expect to see large swings in candidate support following the individual debates, barring something really spectacular happening."
Fake TV Ads
Are you sick of all the cable networks replaying the TV ads from both Obama and McCain? Can't they do some, you know, reporting? Wait until you hear this: Politico.com is reporting that a lot of those ads have never actually aired anywhere. "Aimed at driving the conversation online and on cable news -- where the day-in, day-out campaign is increasingly fought -- these spots amount to video press releases," Politico writes. So the media -- called a "beast that is now ever-more sprawling, fragmented, impatient and video-hungry" by Politico -- simply parrots the campaigns' preferred lines, no questions asked. Back in journalism school, they told us not to reprint press releases -- but then downloading the latest YouTube video does make covering the campaign a lot easier. And it barely costs McCain and Obama anything. So everybody wins, right?