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

Strikingly different debate prep approaches for McCain, Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/21/art.debateprep.gi.jpg 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. Cindy

    There is no amount of preparation that will help McCain— No matter how you prep him or dress him, he's still part of the "good Ole' Boys" and we want "real change not just a puppet proporting to give us such!

    McCain/Palin (the non-transparent couple)— WE THE PEOPLE SAY THIS: THANKS BUT NO THANKS!!

    September 23, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. Bill, West Palm Beach

    Sarah Palin won't be able to fake it this time. Neither will McCain. It
    won't matter what they say. They are the failed Republicans. Everyone
    will remember that little detail at the polls. The polls are
    only the voters with land phone lines, and don't include cell phone
    populus. The republicans are in for a rude awakening.

    Democrats 08.

    September 23, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  3. Answers please

    It's simple. McCain is falling behind and he knows he's an uninspiring speaker with no plan. What plans he does have were Bush's plans and he's attempting to flip flop away from them as fast as he can.

    September 23, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. KEEPIN' IT KEITHER!

    McCain, no whining allowed should you lose the debate due to the "non-traditiona" debate prep.

    However. we will keep the "binky" close by for when you start complaining how if only "Obama had been willing to have town meetings with me" I would not have lost the debate.

    This whine is becoming quite familiar and now we know to be prepared!

    September 23, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  5. Irma in North Carolina

    You all know darn well that the Mccain camp is going to buy off these debates, they will give the questions to be asked that will favor John. Look how they did with the forum out in california John was supposed to be in a code of silence, well if he was how come he answered the questions, before they were completed. Plus they made sure that auidences was all republicans. John and Cindy also have enough money to buy off this election. So that tells you what shape our country will be in with another 4 years of Bush. So go ahead america vote for Mccain, if you have hopes he will kick off while in office so Sarah can get in, just remember Johns mother his 96, so John may be around a while. Dont get your hopes up to high for Sarah being president.

    September 23, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. KJL

    It appears that Obama wants to be prepared for anything. McCain is prepared for war, both in his approach to questions he doesn't like and other nations. I'm an Independant with Republican tendencies, but McCain and Palin have scared me off.

    September 23, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Cindy

    Prep him all you want, I bet he still doesn't know what part of the hemisphere Spain is in... Nor that Spain is a member of NATO!!!

    September 23, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. Anonymous

    McCain will surely give short, generic, simple, black-and-white, fluffy, not-thought-out, no-detail responses.

    Obama will give well-thought-out, descriptive, specific, to-the-point, nuanced, intelligent responses.

    The press will say McCain won the debate. The sheep will agree. McCain gets a bounce.

    September 23, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. JJ

    Don't let the McCain camp fool you. They have someone playing the role of Obama. His camp wants to make you think he really isn't preparing and this is going to be "natural". More LIES!

    September 23, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Eric

    I see McCain is treating this debate as a joke, well it finally fits the description of his campaign.

    September 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. Hispanic Conservative

    I find this revealing: Obama going to a debate camp (well, he will need it). McCain, will squeeze in his prep. McCain is REAL, Obama is FAKE (and its not a 'smear' liberals).... Liberals like to toss that 'smear' word around for anything that puts a negative light on their candidate.

    September 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  12. Kyle of NJ

    Obama will make McCain angry and he will lose his temper and say something that he really should've have said. And all of America will see the true unadulterated McCain. Wait, Watch and see.

    September 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. Lisa G of PA

    This is all spin by McCain's campaign, which is trying to lower expectations. They know it could be a repeat of the Nixon Kennedy debate. Don't let them fool you.

    September 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  14. Steven

    There is no debate Friday – maybe the next debate will be important but Obama has zero experience in foreign policy except making silly statements.

    Only experience at all for Obama is the Community Organizer thing – so why won't he talk about that? What did he do with Ayers – recruit and encourage people and educate others on radical "anti-government" activism..????

    He did such a good job that Ayers launched his Senate bid!

    Hmmm. Good experience. Let's elect this man President of our country!!!

    September 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. linda., bella vista, ar

    How long does it take to learn "noun-verb, POW" and sing a Beach Boys song.

    September 23, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. pat C.

    now mccain is acting like plain. does he think he can just do photo ops and the world will forgive him for sounding stupid when he opens his mouth?

    September 23, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  17. Lynne - Seattle WA

    Everyone has different learning styles, different study/prep styles...I guess we'll see how they work out on Friday....I work in higher education, and have always advised students against cramming for a test. This should be interesting.

    September 23, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. Barbara Campbell

    No problem. McCain will have a microphone imbedded in his ear.

    September 23, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Shari, NY

    One world versus one country. I shall be all ears.

    Russia is eyeing Georgia and doing warm up exercises off the Venezuelan coast. Pakistanis are flexing more muscles, etc., etc.

    September 23, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. Al, NY NY

    Here's some advice for JM....Speak like a person, not a robot! Listening to him is like watching paint dry. (in a droning voice)....."my friends, I have these opinions about these issues..." YAWN

    September 23, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  21. Katy

    I can't wait to see Obama bring Grandpa down a few more notches.

    September 23, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  22. Lies Before Country = Anna Nicole Smith (Lie-a-day Palin) & E. Pierce Marshall (Inane McCain)

    That's ONE of the biggest problems with McCain. He's never ready or prepared for anything. Doesn't his VP pick just prove that all the more?
    Just an impetuous, bratty old, out of touch relic wanting to pretend to be president.

    September 23, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  23. Kyle of NJ

    Obama will make McCain angry, he will lose his temper and say something that he really should not have said. And all of America will see the true unadulterated McCain. Wait, Watch and see.

    September 23, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  24. Candi

    It dosen't matter how much prep McCain gets he willllllllllll not remember until they cheap with cue cards in the audience. And that will be terrible. So McCain instead of the same old stump speech thing of something new and then you will be ready.

    September 23, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  25. tigerakabj

    Obama is going to clean McCain's clock. There will be no Lieberman, no Cindy, no cue card, no help from outside sources to help McCain.

    On top of that, it will be at night so McCain will get more confused, irritable, and possibly angry.

    I absolutely cannot wait for this.

    Obama/Biden 2008/2012.

    September 23, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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