Expert: Standing Out in GOP Debates Crucial to Become Winner

With competition increasing in the GOP primaries, the results from today and Thursday’s debates in Florida could reap major rewards for the winner. A Texas Tech debate expert who coaches the current No. 1-rated debate pair in the nation can discuss what’s happened with this year’s debate schedule as well as what needs to happen for a debater to emerge victorious with the party’s nomination.

Pitch

With competition increasing in the GOP primaries, the results from today and Thursday’s debates in Florida could reap major rewards for the winner. A Texas Tech debate expert who coaches the current No. 1-rated debate pair in the nation can discuss what’s happened with this year’s debate schedule as well as what needs to happen for a debater to emerge victorious with the party’s nomination.

 

Expert

Joe Gantt, director of forensics, Texas Tech University’s debate team, (806) 742-1328 or joe.gantt@ttu.edu

Talking Points

  • Through the first months of the GOP campaign, it was more important for candidates not to lose debates than for them to win debates. Rick Perry’s campaign was probably most damaged by a set of poor debates at the beginning of his campaign, punctuated by his inability to remember three federal departments that he would close.
  • As we move to a smaller field, it has become more important for candidates to win head-to-head comparisons with their opponents. Mitt Romney, for instance, had many solid and consistent debate performances in the early months of the campaign. But when there are only four candidates on stage, Romney seems to suffer in the more-direct comparison between himself and Gingrich.
  • For Newt Gingrich, the primary debates are the reason for his success. His November poll leads came on the strength of his debate performances, and his most recent surge of support in South Carolina started with last Monday’s debate. His weakest periods in public polling have occurred during spells with no debates.

Quotes

  • “The ratings for the debates have been very good, and I think those ratings will only continue to rise as the race continues to be interesting. There may seem to be too many debates, but the voting public keeps watching.”
  • “If Mitt Romney wins Florida, I think he will re-establish himself as a clear frontrunner in the nomination race. If Gingrich wins Florida, however, all bets are off. The most important thing I would then look to is, which candidate can win on the other candidate’s stronger turf? Can Gingrich win in Michigan or Nevada? Can Romney win in a traditionally Southern state? If neither candidate can win on the other candidate’s stronger turf, the process could continue in a similar fashion to Obama-Clinton 2008, all the way to the last set of primaries.”
  • “Gingrich is the strongest debater, if for no other reason than he knows what the voters are looking for. His attacks on the media and on Democrats resonate in ways that the other candidates have not been able to replicate. Romney and Santorum are capable debaters and have had good moments, but they have not been able to sustain that success for a period of debates.”