September 23rd, 2008
09:30 AM ET
14 years ago

Strikingly different debate prep approaches for McCain, Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Obama and McCain are starting to prepare for the upcoming debates."]
(CNN) - There may be no greater illustration of John McCain and Barack Obama’s differing styles than the way they're preparing for Friday’s presidential debate.

Barack Obama is reportedly going to Florida for "debate camp" - traditional preparation that includes a sparring partner playing the role of his Republican opponent.

McCain’s prep is more on the fly: He spent several hours Sunday at his campaign headquarters working with aides, and he spent several hours in a Pennsylvania hotel Monday afternoon doing the same.

He will follow this "squeeze it in" prep schedule Tuesday as he campaigns in Ohio, and Wednesday around meetings with world leaders in New York.

Not until Thursday afternoon and Friday in Mississippi are McCain aides planning to hunker down and devote all the candidate’s time to debate prep.

Another illustration of how McCain’s preparation for Friday’s faceoff has been somewhat untraditional: right now aides say they don't have anyone playing the role of Obama in mock debates. Right now advisers like Mark Salter and Charlie Black and others are throwing questions at McCain they think the moderator could ask, without an "Obama" figure in the mix — although aides say that scenario may change by week’s end.

(Three advisors insist that reports former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is playing Obama in debate prep are untrue — Steele is uninvolved, they say. Also untrue: a report that McCain may hold a Mississippi town hall Friday to help him warm up, as he has often done on debate days.)

One senior advisor involved in this prep says they feel because foreign policy is the subject of the first debate, and they believe that's McCain’s strong suit, a lot of time is being spent working on what aides believe remains the Arizona senator’s big challenge - keeping his answers short.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (214 Responses)
  1. grahame


    September 23, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    They should both do pretty well.
    That's one of two thing both have in common. They can talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, and argue, etcc.....

    The other thing they have in common–neither can support via their past work experience, traditional alliances, nor resume–they can really pull off anything they are promising (which changes with the polls).

    Imagine–a Lame Duck like Bush being replaced by the same kind of duck–no matter who get's the nod.

    Troubling times.

    September 23, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. onelove

    "traditional preparation that includes a sparring partner playing the role of his Republican opponent."

    What part of traditional don't some of you understand? And in case you missed this part of the article McCain is being preped as well, just doing it the "untraditional" way.

    September 23, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. Kate

    Obama will wipe the floor with McCain. This should be amusing to watch.

    September 23, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. Gifty

    'Someone ask McCain what he thinks about One Man One Woman Marriage.

    He's had 1 man, 2 women marriages.'

    Foolish attack. Pls grow up

    Go John/Palin 08

    September 23, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. Matt


    Getting your facts straight doesn't make you more qualified, because most people don't even know the facts. People are too busy voting their party lines to actually care about anything aside from feeling like they're in the "better" party.

    September 23, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Mike, Syracuse NY

    I guess it takes a debate camp for Obama to say 'yes' or 'no' without 10 minutes of equivocating. After his performance at Saddleback he needs all the practice he can get. Obama never states his position until after he sees how the political winds blow and takes days to staff something. He did that with Georgia, with AIG, and now with the bailout. It's like walking in the footprints of someone else in a mindfield. Except Obama never takes his turn out front, he ALWAYS follows. Not exactly leadership is it? He'll fall flat on his face in the debates.

    September 23, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. gman

    McCain we admire your courage and time spent in the military, but give us a break! The country is in an Economic melt down please tell us how you are going to fix it! Please be serious and stop lying about issues we need a leader we can trust. Obama is way out of your reach accept it and move on!!

    September 23, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Paul in Dallas

    I can only imagine the stress the candidates must be under. I don't anticipate any big damage to come to either candidate. And I don't think the debates will change much. So why have them? Alot of people say they are undecided, but with the differences in the candidate so profound I really don't believe anyone is undecided. It's fun to pretend to be so sophisticated that the decision on who to vote for will wait until election day. And pollsters will keep calling.

    September 23, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. Ron

    This is like the kid who attempts to read the book the day of the test as opposed to the kid who took his time.
    I hope it reflects in his performance!!!! i hope he tanks!

    September 23, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  11. Tom in Delaware

    When Obama was way ahead in the polls back in June and July he didn't give a crap about the issues, and not so cleverly 'redifined' how he and John Mccain should 'debate' in the style of the Lincoln-Douglas Campaign of 1860, rather than keep his commitment to the 10 Town-Hall debates he made after winning the Primary.

    McCain did what any politiian would by attacking him on his character instead. This was pretty easy, of course, because there's so much to go for, despite the fact that MSM gave him a free ride.

    He can practice for a month and it won't make a dent in regards to his gift for falling in love with the sound of his own voice every time he opens his mouth.

    Ask him what time it is, and he'll tell you how to build Big Ben.

    Get him talking about his favorite topic....himself, and it's over.

    He was able to slip through the cracks when debating in a field of candidates during the early primaries, but got 'punked' by Hillary Clinton when he had to go one-on-one.

    His death-knell is coming this Friday, and it won't matter what the previous polls stated.

    McCain/Palin '08

    September 23, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  12. colleen

    Obama should call him out on Palin. How McCain talk about keeping America safe when he has given Americans less than two months, and virtually no media access to her, to get to know this rank neophyte.

    September 23, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  13. Marty

    Ya gotta admit - after all the other trash and crap is tossed, THIS is the major issue:

    You couldn't get a job at McDonalds and become district manager after 143 days of experience.
    You couldn't become chief of surgery after 143 days of experience of being a surgeon.
    You couldn't get a job as a teacher and be the superintendent after 143 days of experience.
    You couldn't join the military and become a colonel after a 143 days of experience.
    You couldn't get a job as a reporter and become the nightly news anchor after 143 days of experience.

    'From the time Barack Obama was sworn in as a United State Senator, to the time he announced he was forming a Presidential exploratory committee, he logged 143 days of experience in the Senate.
    That's how many days the Senate was actually in session and working.
    After 143 days of work experience, Obama believed he was ready to be Commander In Chief, Leader of the Free World, and fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln,FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan. 143 days?
    We all have to start somewhere. The senate is a good start, but after 143 days, that's all it is – a start.

    AND, sadly, a large sector of the American public seems to feel comfortable with this and campaigning for him.

    We wouldn't accept this in our own line of work, yet some are OK with this for the President of the United States of America ?

    Come on folks, we are not voting for the next American Idol.

    September 23, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. s.b.

    Well McCain doesn't need as much help as Obama does he?

    September 23, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
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