What voters look at when candidates debate
Political scientist weighs in
It may be the biggest night of the 2012 campaign so far. Two candidates set to square off right here in our home state of Colorado.
It's been said that a presidential debate won't make or break a campaign, but it will, no doubt, influence perception.
The economy, health care, and the role of government are all hot topics for the first presidential debate.
But while "on point", each of them needs to execute the intangible.
"You don't want to do something that's going to be lampooned on Saturday Night Live," explained University of Colorado - Colorado Springs political science professor Josh Dunn.
He points to Al Gore's "death blow", a big sigh on stage that became political fodder for weeks.
Presidential debates haven't clinched a win, but they can significantly damage chances of winning.
Voters are looking for something to disqualify a candidate.
Dunn says, "A lot of these emotional cues take on added significance for them. I think you're right -- you can't divorce the personality from policy. The voters are looking for someone who comes across well, as a likeable person, as someone they won't mind having in their living rooms for the next four years."
On the checklist for Romney? Avoid coming off as aloof, and show he can relate to the average American.
For President Obama? Avoid coming across as irritable or impatient.
Now the question becomes, will Americans weigh these personality traits more strongly than policy?
That is the $64,000 dollar question.
NOTE: Anchor Heather Skold of our sister station KRDO in Colorado Springs filed this report.
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