tonight is the first presidential pseudo-debate of 2004. there will be no actual debating, so this might be better called a "binary press conference". the rules are extensive, the coverage micro-managed to the extreme, and once again everything is deliberately crafted to prevent third parties from getting into the debate. npr has a nice "top 10" list of "secrets they don't want you to know about the debates" that is a good place to start researching what's wrong with prez debates these days, but there is much more info out there for those who search it out...
still, i'm going to watch the fuck out of it. i missed the indiana gubernatorial debate the other day (i forgot it was happening and watched return of the jedi instead, although bobby vomit did a live remix of the indiana debate and might hook me up with an mp3 soon) but i won't miss this one, & i'll be trying to watch the rest as well. i'll probably even tape them all to vhs for possible sampling... and i'll damn well be sure to watch the debate coverage on the daily show tonight.
the blogosphere is ramping up because many have correctly observed that the post-debate debate is more important than the debate itself. to wit, which candidate actually performs better doesn't matter as much as which candidate has more pundits claiming that he "won". many people thought gore won some or all of the debates in 2000, but the talking heads insisted bush won and over time that became the conventional wisdown. considering how the mainstream media still treats bush with kids' gloves, even if kerry wins tonight, the democrats will have to work hard to get the media to acknowlege that (unless bush completely fucks up, which is possible).
part of the package is the "expectations game". each candidate tries to inflate his opponent's debate skills: bush has "never lost a debate" (false) and kerry's "entire life has led to this moment". this might seem counterintuitive, but it works by lowering the bar: if everyone thinks going in that kerry can't win the debate, then it's that much easier for him to impress people, and vice versa. bush is winning that game, but then he has the right-wing pundits in his corner.
naturally an assortment of debate drinking games have arisen (wonkette's wins the prize for being the first i've seen, though the one printed in the chicago tribune is likely to get more participants). i don't think i'll be playing, because unlike bush's state of the union, there's at least a chance that something of substance will happen and i'd rather be sober enough to catch it.