The Swimsuit Competition
by Steve Huddleston

I have a theory about presidential elections and televised debates that I think is pretty well supported. Americans are by and large intellectually lazy. The majority of voters are woefully ill informed about the issues, how government works-who is responsible for what, international affairs, even basic geography. That is sad and that is cynical, but I believe it to be true. I also believe that swing voters - those of us not absolutely tied to one party and proudly boast they vote for "the man" and not "the party", make a cosmetic choice based on the debates.

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that every president since Kennedy has looked better, sounded better, and has appeared more comfortable in their own skin during the televised debates. That's how Kennedy beat Nixon. How Carter beat Ford, Reagan beat Carter and Mondale, and so and so on. I was rooting hard for Gore last time and thought he did much better on actual issues than Bush but I have to concede that Bush looked more at ease with his "folksy" approach than Gore did making issue based appeals.

And then came Thursday's debate. Let the spinmeisters spin- ANYONE judging that debate on who appeared more confident and comfortable in their surroundings had to see Kerry as the winner. Nor is there any reason not to expect Kerry to do as well or better in the next two. The next one will be more scripted, so I don't expect Bush to do quite as badly- but I don't expect him to do as well as Kerry because there is no teleprompter. The third debate over domestic issues- from stem cells to the highest deficits in history to the first net job loss in modern times to record gas prices to the environment to Haliburton to Enron to Medicare- if you thought Bush looked bad last night, just wait until the last debate when he has to try and defend the indefensible.

Kerry IS going to win the "swim suit competition" of this year's televised debates. And if history is any guide- that means he will win the election.

Steven Huddleston is an attorney, amateur political activist, writer and a very smart fellow. He is also a friend of mine whose thoughts I will be posting here from time to time.

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