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Advisory: Political communication expert available for debate analysis

By Sarah Mansell
336.758.5237
February 24, 2004

The upcoming Feb. 26 and Feb. 29 Democratic debates have the potential of exposing the weaknesses of Sen. John Kerry more than Sen. John Edwards, says a political debate expert at Wake Forest University.

“Edwards is skilled at addressing the unexpected moments that arise in debate situations,” says Allan Louden, an associate professor of communication and director of Wake Forest’s nationally ranked debate program. “Kerry is more formulated in his answers, and that may hurt him.”

Louden, who is teaching political communication this semester, was the debate coach to one of the candidates for North Carolina senate in 2002 and continues to serve as a campaign communication consultant to political figures across the country. He says for one candidate to come out on top, voters need a reason to split one way or the other.

“Edwards needs to go on the attack,” he says. “People need a reason not to go to Kerry, and now is the time for Edwards to make that distinction.”

Louden says Kerry should also use an attack strategy, but says both camps will likely use it cautiously – Kerry so as not to create a “good guy/bad guy” race, and Edwards so as not to contradict his already established “nice guy” image.

Louden is available for comment on the Democratic debates. He is experienced with national print and broadcast media interviews. Contact him at louden@wfu.edu, 336-758-5408; or through Sarah Mansell at manselss@wfu.edu, 336-758-5237.

Additional Quotes from Allan Louden:

  • “In a four-person debate you never really get to the direct interaction that can reveal crevices and fissures in a candidate. The moderator may use Kucinich and Sharpton to get to Edwards and Kerry.”
  • “This debate has the potential to be a big turning point in the Democratic race.”
  • “If one of the candidates were to make a blunder, like Gov. Howard Dean’s Iowa scream, that would trump everything in a debate. Winning the issues is only part of it. Poise and avoiding mistakes are also important parts of voters’ impressions.”
  • “There is a sort of class war subset going on underneath the surface of the Democratic race. Edwards’ campaign has questioned Kerry’s ability to relate to America and that is really coming through in the media.”
  • “Kerry uses a militaristic rhetoric similar to Franklin Roosevelt. He has been very consistent with use of very active combat-based verbs.”
  • “Edwards comes off as good, fresh, cool. He can deliver the same speech over and over and still sound fresh. He’s also strong when interviewed.”
  • “When answering questions in debates, Edwards has a subtle manner of giving credit to the question and his opponent but still getting his point out. He sounds reasoned, and he attacks by inference.”

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