The not-so-Great Debate

Tonight is the one (and likely to be only) leaders' debate for the election, and like most debates in previous years, it will be watched only by political tragics and masochists, neither of whom are key to deciding the election winner. Still, beyond actually hitting the voters who matter, the debate does have a large amount of momentum value, especially so this time around given that it will be the ice-breaker after three days with almost no campaigning.

Howard is naturally more suited than Latham to the debate format. Howard has a sharp intellect, is very verbally dexterous, and loves a good argument with a willing opponent. Latham, however, is more a man-of-the-people (providing the people are not taxi drivers or Presidents of the United States) who prefers interacting with punters to make his point rather than arguing with a political opponent. He isn't as verbal or as sharp as Howard, but has a more casual, conversational approach. It's not wonder than Latham was pushing for a "Town Hall meeting" style debate rather than a clinical audience-free one.

The Rodent (George Brandis' name for him, not mine) was very tactical is pushing for a change in format from past years. The traditional format of the two leaders plus a single moderator is gone, and a panel of five is instead in place to ask the questions. Five journalists, two leaders, one hour... it'll be hard for anyone to get a decent amount of airtime, which is exactly what the PM wants. He realises that Latham is not nearly as well known in the electorate as Howard himself is, and so Howard wants to deprive Latham of oxygen, and a beefed up panel is the way to go. The format was tried in the 2002 Victorian state election, and the result was rather weak with a scattering of questions and a lack of continuity.

Life-like miniature models of the leaders.


A couple of things to watch for during the debate:
- Latham drawing repeatedly and graphically from his own life experience, usually mentioned in tandem with his ladder of opportunity.
- Howard frequently trying to divert attention to terrorism and national security, as part of his approach to scare the electorate into returning the incumbant.
- A couple of poor attempts at humour by both candidates to die miserably.
- A nervous Latham to be a bit twitchy and insecure at first, shades of Howard in a former debate.
- The Greens staging a protest outside, whinging about not being a part of the action.
- The debate to be easily outrated by Australian Idol on Ten. No surprise there.

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