Friday, June 13, 2008

How forum format could hurt and help McCain

McCain likes the informality of town forums, compared to speeches. The forum format plays to his style, which is more conversational than Ciceronian, and lets him unload the trademark cracks that reinforce his maverick image. But forums with Obama will include audiences ready to pounce on either candidate.

It will be interesting to see how McCain will handle questioners who grill him on his tax plan, which favors the affluent and corporations over the working class, and which will run up the national debt by as much as $5.7 trillion over 10 years, according to some estimates. If a questioner starts off, "I make $30,000 a year -- tell me how your tax plan will help me as much as someone who makes $200,000," how will an informal McCain respond? Certainly not with a wisecrack (I hope).

On the other hand, McCain might be able to use the forum format to strengthen his case against a swift pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq. The surge -- which he totally supported -- worked, as even some critics say, and the Maliki governmenti is taking forceful action against insurgents, regardless of their religious or clan affiliation. If violence in Iraq continues to recede in the coming months, Obama -- who wants a swift pullout -- will be in a more vulnerable position than McCain.

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