September 23rd, 2008
09:30 AM ET
12 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. debbie

    Really Obama is "the one" that would need to prepare because of his lack of experience. I bet he feels like a kid studying for a exam on friday!

    Democrat voting for Mccain 08 and Hillary 12

    September 23, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. Steve

    It'll be interesting to see if McCain actually answers the questions. His usual method is to ignore the question and go on ad nauseum about patriotism, his service to the country, his experience in [fill in the blank] in general terms. When asked how he will fix the economy, he'll go on and on about greed and corruption, and then say he'll clean things up. Big deal. What I want to hear is the HOW!

    For the 1/2 of America that's voting for McCain, as the old saying goes, "Be careful what you ask for." Your wages will continue to deteriorate. Your taxes will go through the roof (how do you think the 700 billion will get paid for?), and your children will die in wars McCain's well-known temper has started. At least you have front row seats for the end of the American Way.

    September 23, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. Eating Buffalo Wings in Heaven with Russert

    Hi, I'm Joe biden, and I just threw my running mate under the bus....

    Holy smokes, he wasn't kidding when he said Hillary would have been a better choice.

    September 23, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Helena

    I wonder if McCain will have an outline on his back of a little box like Bush so someone can feed him answers. It may also work for Palin. I heard a rumor that she has already been viewed with what looked like an outline of a box on her back.

    September 23, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  5. carlo

    I find it very presumptuous that McCain is so glib about this debate just because its on foreign policy. This is not a debate about Vietnam or his POW status. I know that is his plan-to pull noun, verb, POW, out of his rear end whenever he is cornered. Obama isn't underestsimating his opponent, which, at the very least, shows deference for McCain. McCain, who clearly looks down on Obama as beneath him, is taking the "novice" for granted. McCain is going to regret this.

    September 23, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  6. wicth

    I don't understand why being A P.O.W makes someone qualified to become Pres. Yes he served his country that is what he wanted to do. He went to VIetnam he was captured and beaten. I understand all that, but why does that make him more special than others who have served and have gotten hurt . I didn't believe in the vietnam war nor do I believe in the war in Iraq. I do love my country I also believe that we need to take care of America before we take care of other countries because if we don,t we won't have an America to Take Care Of others.

    September 23, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. Valerie - North Carolina

    Both John McCane and Barack Obama are good and decent men. I see McCane and his thinking as the past and Obamb and his intelligence as the future.

    A Senion Southern Lady – Independent

    September 23, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  8. jm for sc

    Obama will cut loose on McCain. Don't underestimate him in this debate. Obama was not trying to destory Hillary because he knew if Hillary won the nomination, he would be working very closely with her. However, in a McCain administration it will be a different story. And besides, he will be fighting for the American people, the troops overseas as well as his own career. McCain will lose this debate unless he is given the questions in advance in order to study his responses.

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 23, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. We want Hillary!

    George Will, an old white conservative columnist, wrote today that McCain doesn't have the temperment to be a good President and that this is the kind of problem that can't be fixed.

    September 23, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. Sandra

    This debate and the following ones should be about what can the elected president do for America, not how bad the opposition is. This is not a sparring competition.

    September 23, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. Kpawlak

    Obama supporters are so funny. You will say anything to prop up your guy. Fact is Obama is a terrible debater. Hillary cleaned his clock in that department. Yes, Obama will have long thought out answers that will be empty as usual. He has no experience but, he does orate well. Seems the majority of people commenting here are Obama supporters.

    You seem desperate.

    September 23, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. David, Silver Spring, MD

    John McCain has been a Washington politician for decades. He's heard all the questions before and should have his debate "style" pretty well nailed down, honed to dish the stuff in those TV-friendly soundbites.

    Obama is not a career politician. When asked a question, his response is to think about it and give as full a response as he can. He has to be taught how to perform in the artificial environment of the TV debate, where the medium of exchange is "gotcha" questions and catchy one-liners.

    September 23, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. andrew s. rostolder hillsdale nj

    mcsame's whole career has been on th fly. sarah palin choice is a prime example. with out her, nobody shows up to hear him speak. the candle flame is dwindeling. sarah, track, trick, smig, pick and pack, will all be headed north soon and levi will split for a warmer climate.

    September 23, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Adam

    It's going to be entertaining seeing a healthy, vibrant young man helping a decrepit old man find his way to the podium. The contrast between these two is going to make Nixon and Kennedy look like identical twins.

    It does remain to be seen whether McCain will cheat like Bush did, or like he did at the Saddleback forum.

    September 23, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  15. Jackie

    So when McCain does badly- will he blame his lack of preparation and claim he was too busy with other important matters?

    Honestly, I cannot wait for the VP debates more than the Presidential- Palin's idea of transparency is lip gloss.

    September 23, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  16. Mike in Columbus

    I really look forward to bobble head Bay Buchanan's comments after the debates!

    September 23, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. William, from Cali!

    I'm going to give the both of them some free advice!..........."just be yourself, and answer all the questions," as trueful as you can................

    September 23, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. lyn

    You know dam well that McSame camp will buy of this debate , also the American people know that McSame is all about war. Obama is for peace and unity. Political ticker you never cover Biden and when you do your coverage is negative be fair and give both Obama & Biden the coverage as you do for that woman Palin who continue to tell lies, the McSame camp has stop the investigation in Wasilla, if there was nothing to hide they would have not stop the investigation.

    September 23, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. fred

    Shouldn't they already know how to debate??? They've had debates before. Why would Obama need to go to "debate camp?"

    September 23, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Florida will not be red

    Obama should not trust anyone that has worked with the clintons to prep him for the debates. I would guess, their telling mccain everything obama will say so he'll look prepared. I'm also betting he already has a list of the questions. my advice to obama, you're own your own sweetie, but, you'll be okay.

    September 23, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Truth hurts

    Foreign policies and the economy is tied together. I think Obama will do well and it won't be much of a bounce for either. The challenge is Biden and Palin. Palin expectations is lowered. I think overall, the debates will not change anything unless something outrageous happens. I don't think race will be a factor in the election because the new voters and younger voters will offset that!! And also, people are going to be surprise when more people vote on the issues and not the color of somebody else skin. Some people being polled who have a negative opinion about blacks in public will get the poll both and vote on issues. It is only one color that matters when it comes to money and that is green!!

    September 23, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. David, Silver Spring, MD

    The difference in debate style reflects a difference in how the two will govern.

    Obama will immerse himself in the details, study hard, work with others, and try to arrive at the best long-term solution.

    McCain will, like Bush before him, go with his "gut." He will be so confidant that he has seen it all and done it all that he'll take any new challenge and squeeze it into the sausage skin of his experience.

    September 23, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. Paris

    McCain doesn’t need to be prepped for a debate.
    He has done so many and when you have conviction and when you know what you believe in, you don’t need to be prepped.
    Obama needs this experience just like he needs the experience to run this country and he lacks it.

    The difference between a real Commander and chief and a want be.

    McCain will do great.

    September 23, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. Independent-Latina-for-OBAMA

    I think that this first debate will give us, Americans, a chance to see both men standing side by side. We will see the incredible difference: McCain from the last generation, and Obama young and his youth saying loudly "FUTURE". We have a choice between staying on the same-old-path or moving into our future!

    Let's hope that people will watch the debate and listen closely. The choice is clear........ we can't go back, we must move forward.

    September 23, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. Odie

    I hope the debate will show McCain as he really is – UNWISE, UNFIT AND UN-PRESIDENTIAL. I hope the public and the media is not fooled again as they were at Saddleback with McCain's short, flip nonsense non-answers.

    September 23, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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