With the three candidates for Indiana Governor set to meet Wednesday night for their first debate, I’ve decided to offer some friendly last-minute advice on what each should and should not do to walk away victorious.
I base this on the fact that I have been a broadcaster for 20 years, teaching speech and communications for nearly 10 and debating since I showed up in the delivery room.
Note all three candidates know how to work the media whether as TV stars or radio talk show hosts, so we don’t need to get too basic, but here is my friendly advice.
- He has the most to gain in the upcoming debate and the most pressure to perform. Gregg has been trailing by double digits in the polls so he really needs to hit one out out of the park, across the street and into the next county. He’s going to hit his usual themes about jobs and doing things the “Hoosier” way instead of the “Washington” way. He is going to have to try and paint Mike Pence as an extremist, but also offer up details of what he is going to do. He is going to have to cut back on the “I’s” in his presentation like he did at IUPUI a month or so ago. He is going to have to pull a Mitt Romney seeing how this may be the only time most voters give him a good look. It will be a high-wire act, but there high reward if he can pull it off. And no cursing!
- Pence has the most to lose out of this debate since he is the front-runner. Gregg has the more dominant personality and Pence is more reserved. The trick for Pence will be to play political jujitsu and make sure that whenever he is hit hit with an allegation of playing the social issue game, he needs to quickly turn around the discussion to jobs. Also, he needs to admit early on as to his beliefs, but quickly remind voters that this election is about jobs and the economy. He also needs to relax and step a little out of his comfort zone. Pence is a very disciplined candidate, but sometimes can be too disciplined and come across as a little stiff can be accused of avoiding the question that was asked. You’ve got a plan for Indiana, don’t hesitate to share. And smile!
- Boneham gets the benefit of the “low expectations” game. The political class doesn’t expect him to offer up any deep policy proposals, so he shouldn’t try. He should use his charm and personality to his advantage. Boneham can work a crowd and does very well one-on-one, he needs to remember that when he debating he is not talking to the audience, but that individual Hoosier voter who is watching at home, or may be watching later. He needs to throw in a few details to show he understands the issues, but he should let his personality carry the day. In other words, let Rupert be Rupert.
- Have fun. Fundamentally, voting is as much an emotional process as it is a logical one and people want to vote for candidates they like. If you look like you are having a good time, while still being serious about the issues, you will walk away a victor. On Thursday, I’ll let you know how the candidates performed.
Good luck to all.