One of the things I truly love about politics is waiting for that rare occasion when someone says something—anything—that we didn’t already expect to hear.
Gaffe’s aside, political rhetoric is so predictable that only the most off-the-wall bets are being accepted at, for example, PaddyPower.com, where the only wager they’ll take is on which particular phrase will be the first one uttered. (Current odds have “economic security” at 9-to-1. “Gay marriage” languishes at 40-to-1, well behind “Hello, Denver!” which sits at 25-to-1.)
The debate, quarterbacked by the reputable Jim Lehrer (and with choreography as tight as a Cirque du Soleil performance) will focus on domestic issues. Six equal segments, each with the usual time stamps for buttal and rebuttal (I know… but it should be a word….), will kindly allow both President Obama and Governor Romney to play out their now well-worn talking points.
Given this inherent predictability, the debate, for me, is really about the ego trip of precise forecasting. To that end, I have here my Top Ten Predictions for the upcoming debate.
[And, since I’ve learned that many of my readers are far cleverer than I am, I invite all of you to add your own predictions in the comments section.]
10 People will applaud inappropriately
Despite Jim Lehrer’s admonition to “hold all applause,” there will be at least three occasions where said admonition will be ignored. At least one of them will include the phrase “47 percent.”
9 There will be NO touching
Mitt Romney will not repeat the incredibly foolish mistake of touching a debate opponent (as he did with Rick Perry), and it won’t be just because the Secret Service would take him out if he touched a sitting President.
8 Ron Paul will again be ignored
The post-debate analysis will include commentary from at least one politician with the surname “Paul,” who will complain that neither candidate took the time to rip the Fed a new one. The pundit interviewing Mr. Paul will snicker slightly, but only towards the camera.
7 Fox will show off their women while pretending not to
The commentators at Fox will not be sitting at a desk, but will once again be perched on uncomfortable stools designed to force the women to cross their legs seductively, exactly what one would expect from the station that continually denies the war on women.
6 There will be at least one taboo subject--for the candidates
Neither candidate will mention voter fraud for fear that the topic will be seen as having racist overtones. Conversely, every pundit will find a way to talk about it and to tie it directly to the race issue.
5 At least one pundit will turn everything into a referendum on class
Al Sharpton will spend at least five uninterrupted minutes talking about class, class warfare, and how the upper class is becoming more upper while the middle class is becoming less middle. During the entire five minutes, Rachel Maddow will be nodding as if agreeing, but will be, in reality, figuring out how, when it is once again her turn to speak, she can quickly imbue the conversation with some sense of intelligence.
4 There will be a little too much smugness to go around
President Obama will appear, on at least one occasion, so arrogant that even the MSNBC contingent will have to concede that perhaps he should have “dialed it back a bit.”
3 It was HIS economy, stupid!
Romney will accuse Obama of blaming the economic problems on Bush even before Obama actually blames the economic problems on Bush.
2 Poll discussions will abound, ad nauseum
There will be a minimum of fourteen mentions regarding current polling practices, including at least one about a poll taken on how much Americans don’t trust polls.
And my top prediction for the debate?
1 Everyone will completely ignore the obscene amount of money in politics
No one will say anything about SuperPACs or how much money is flowing like sewage into the campaigns. They won't talk about whether or not corporations are (or should be) people. They won't decry their own war chests, now cumulatively heading well north of $1 billion. And they won't mention in any way how it is now so easy to buy votes.
Actually, it’s only this last one that I really care about. The rest of it will be just another day at the office: the candidates have answers they already know the questions to, the audience has heard it all before, and the really meaningful points will never, ever be heard…. Meanwhile, the hijacking of the entire process continues, and you and I become less and less important…
I’m going to keep score anyway, though; it’s the only way to make these things interesting. How about you?