That would have been the case this year, as well, given the closeness of the race, and the increase in political interest/participation by American citizens in several segments of the electorate this election cycle.
Financial crisis alters debate backdrop
However, the debates have been displaced in importance by the crisis facing the financial system and the U.S. Congress' and President's efforts to reach an agreement on a plan that will end the crisis and shore-up severely-stressed credit, bond, stock, and currency markets.
The upcoming debate now looks like a side-show, a momentary diversion, before the nation returns to the work of trying to avoid a re-emergence of the barter system in two thousand and eight, Anno Domini.
However, that's not to say the candidates in the debates will not try to win the votes of undecided voters. Historically, by today, Friday, September 26, most voters have already decided who they'll vote for on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4. Still, because the race is so close between Democratic Party nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and Republican Party nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, those votes literally could be the difference that determines which candidate wins the presidency.
With the above as a backdrop, here's what to look for in the debate, which airs on all major national television networks, starting at 9 p.m. EST.
Debate Overview: This first debate is supposed to focus on foreign policy, but more than likely, look for the financial crisis facing the nation (and the world) to work itself into the debate. The view from here argues that the economy is going to come up pretty quick and it will be up to the moderator, PBS Broadcast Journalist Jim Lehrer, to either re-focus the debate back on foreign policy or let domestic issues discussion continue.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois: Obama will try to impress upon voters that he represents policy change, change that he believes is necessary to address the nation's problems. Obama will also emphasize his extensive knowledge of economics, and his ability to connect with and understand the typical person's problems and concerns, and the role government can play in helping. At times too reflective, also look for Obama to take a more-forceful, but succinct stance, while still exhibiting his broad knowledge of issues and policy.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona: McCain will try to impress upon voters his extensive foreign policy knowledge and experience, honorable public service and military service, and willingness to seek non-traditional solutions to problems. McCain will also emphasize that government is more often the problem, not the solution, and that the best solutions often come from the private sector. At times too forceful, also look for McCain to take a measured, moderate stance, while still exhibiting his high energy and strong interest in public service.
Again, the debate airs on most national television networks at 9 p.m. EST.
Enjoy the debate.
Financial Editor Joseph Lazzaro is writing a book on the U.S. Presidency and the U.S. economy.