- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2008

Round 2

The nation has two more presidential debates to look forward to — or ignore, as the case may be. After days of exhaustive coverage and annoying analysis of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s recent match with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the two principal players will strut their stuff on Tuesday.

Or try to strut their stuff, anyway. Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama star in the second of three presidential debates.

Other than pray for gaffes and emerge confused, do we really care? Historically speaking, debates don’t matter all that much to Americans.

“Election polling trends since the advent of televised presidential debates a nearly a half-century ago reveal few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. The two exceptions are 1960 and 2000, both very close elections in which even small changes could have determined who won,” says a recent Gallup analysis, based on five decades of voter preference data.

Yet 2008 is so fraught with complications, intrigue and catastrophes that the nation may be swayed by manufactured public events like presidential debates.

“The 2008 debates could be an important factor in shifting voter preferences decisively toward one candidate or the other. With so much economic uncertainty and political activity going on, however, it may be impossible to disentangle the effect of the debates from the effect of other news events on voter preferences at this critical time,” Gallup notes.

“The complexity of real-world events confounding an analysis of the impact of the presidential debates is actually a problem that applies to a review of all of the elections; it’s not a perfect science, and the conclusions drawn here could be debated.”

Now we know

“Elite opinion leaders” have nine ways to approach foreign policy, just in case the topic comes up over cocktails or coffee.

They are Missionaries, Hegemonists, Globalizers, Global Capitalists, Narrow Realists, Progressive Internationalists, Anti-Imperialists, Neighbors and Disengagers, says Chris J. Dolan, a political scientist at Lebanon Valley College.

Some are more popular than others. The most prevalent orientations are hegemonists, globalizers and progressive internationalists; the most infrequent orientations are missionaries, narrow realists and disengagers.

“The findings suggests that there has been even greater diversity in the foreign policy orientations of elites in the wake of the collapse of Soviet Communism and East-West tensions. With the observation of nine orientations, elites have developed more politically and ideologically urbane foreign policy beliefs,” Mr. Dolan observed.

Such a card

Consider buying some baseball cards. Upper Deck — a maker and purveyor of sports memorabilia — has randomly tucked two special political cards into a $5 pack to be released to the public Monday. Officially, the cards are “PP-15 (Palin) and PP-16 (Biden), according to company marketing director Kerri Stockholm.

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