Normally an election is a referendum on the incumbant. This year the campaign to date has been a referendum on Kerry. I think the debates present the best opportunity for the election to shift back to whether not Bush has done a good job and whether he should be "rehired" for another 4-year term.
As for predictions:
- Look for Bush to sound "Aw shucks" like and to try to play the Texas cowboy role.
- Also be on the lookout for "the wink" from the President when he says something that he thinks is especially clever. The president won't give you a full wink, of course - not the demonstrative and overt kind. What he instead executes is more refined, more subtle. The Wink occurs when the president furrows slightly his bushy right eyebrow - slightly, yes, but perceptibly. He usually only does it with his right eye, although sometimes his left eyebrow will rise at the same time the right one Winks. Bush often Winks when he reaches that certain word, name or phrase - sometimes a tricky term or obscure reference - that the very construction of his sentence was designed to elicit. Even if he reached that marker by turns circuitous and ungrammatical, he arrives emphatically. Indeed, he often pauses an extra beat to permit the word or phrase - and The Wink itself - to fully sink in, before moving to his next thought. And "emphatically" here has twin meanings: Bush is being both earnest and physically signposting.
- Look for Kerry to be more effective and more assertive than he has been in this campaign.
- I think Kerry will use his considerable skills as a Proesecutor to put Bush on the defensive and make his case.
NewsPropaganda will declare Bush won the debate no matter what happens.
As for suggestions, I think Kerry should:
- Describe the fact that President Bush broke his promise in obtaining Congressional support for his vote to authorize military force. I would use an example of a child who asks permission to spend the night at a friend's house. The parent says as long as you finish your chores and your homework then you can go. In this example Bush is the kid who didn't keep his part of the bargain. He didn't do his chores, he didn't do his homework, and he went to war anyway. Now he's calling Kerry a flip-flopper when he's the one who made the mistakes.
- Use the metaphor of a man failing to stop for directions when talking about Bush's "decisive leadership". Bush keeps reminding me of the driver who says "I don't know where we're going, but we're making good time."
- Ask "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
Let's go JFK! It's time to rumble!