How the Political Parties get ready
Presidential debates might have started out as an unofficial way of discussing the era’s major issues during the campaign season, but they have since evolved into big business and a major regulatory pursuit of the federal government. As a result, an independent body selects venues, moderators, and questions, and each of the candidates is expected to adjust their debate style and messaging to this series of decisions made every four years. It’s a tall order, but one that is typically handled well by serious presidential candidates. Presidential debate prep, as it is known, generally involves a few key components.
Moderator Familiarization and Anticipation
Candidates are told who will be moderating each of their debates ahead of time, and this information serves as a key way to prepare for each upcoming debate. Candidates extensively study the moderator to determine their unique prerogative on the news. They anticipate the questions that they will be asked by each moderator, and they engage in a mock debate that involves both the scheduled moderator and a stand-in for their challenger in the election.
This typically allows the candidate to have prepared responses for most things asked of them by the moderator, though it has also contributed to major candidate weakness at some debates. Some candidates tend to be over-prepared for expected moderator questions, but they wind up being under-prepared for the more spontaneous nature of debates themselves.
Candidate Stand-Ins and Argument Practice
Presidential candidates anticipate what their opponent will say by studying their stump speeches, examining their legislative and leadership histories, and hiring someone who can stand in as their opponent during mock debates and practice sessions. By figuring out what the opposing candidate will say ahead of time, it’s possible to have excellent counter-arguments, memorable zingers, and 30-second sound bites, all prepared ahead of time.
The Key is Anticipating the Debate and Adjusting Appropriately
Though a debate is a fair discussion of the campaign’s issues, preparation for the debate involves anticipating moderators’ questions, opponents’ responses, and the best way to connect with an audience when discussing major issues. That’s why debate prep is almost always about pre-planning, predicting, and anticipating, and it’s a strategy that has worked for every victorious candidate over the past half-century.