Participants in Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate will take part in a classic American political ritual, where the questions are closely vetted for fairness and even the pens and bottled water are regulated.
Good debate performances can boost or break a candidate’s White House chances so staffers fret over every detail — not just whether their candidate is ready for tough questions but also which tie will look best against the backdrop.
When they take the stage at a Las Vegas casino hotel, seven Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election will be at identical podiums, placed to correspond precisely to their standing in national opinion polls.
Preparation consumes an enormous amount of time and distracts from more traditional campaign activity like formulating policy proposals, said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, a veteran of John McCain’s 2008 campaign.
This year, with so many debates, the final “winner” might merely be the last man standing, not necessarily the best candidate to defeat Obama, he said.
“It has really become politics’ version of the reality TV show ‘Survivor,’” O’Connell said.
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