The 10 Biggest Debate Mistakes A Candidate Can Make

Time’s Mark Halperin with great insights ahead of tonight’s debate:

Based on watching presidential debates over the years, here are the biggest mistakes candidates can make:

  1. Coming in tired.
  2. Compounding an early error by getting distracted and making the same kind of error again.
  3. Unleashing a canned one-liner that bombs.
  4. Not knowing how to balance looking at the camera, the moderator, and the opponent.
  5. Answering ANY process question directly.
  6. Forgetting that bigness, graciousness, humor, and speaking to the aspirations of the American people trump everything else.
  7. Not making sure that the hair and makeup look good on TV.
  8. Forgetting that the mic is always on — and the cutaway camera is too.
  9. Forgetting that the more optimistic candidate wins most every time.
  10. Failing to live Alex Castellanos’ sage dictum: debates are about delivering big moments of strength.


  1. margaret
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Don’t look sweaty (Nixon), don’t say Oops I forgot (Perry), don’t look like you’re going to hit the opponent (Gore), and know what to say on trick questions like “how would you feel if your wife was raped?” (Dukakis).

  2. Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    don’t use words like “Let me be clear” and then give a wandering BS answer or lie.
    Don’t check your watch, huff and puff or come off as condescending.

  3. No Tribe
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    “Alex Castellanos’ sage dictum”

    Those words do not belong together. He’s a dufus that’s dumb. Go back and see his reaction when Romney did his Friday dump of his tax returns, effectively taking it off the table– have you heard a word about it since? Nada, and yet, Castellanos thought it was death to Romney. In fact, it was admirable jijitsu, as the Democrats were left arguing that Romney paid too much taxes. Yes, we had Reid there for a day arguing that Romney paid too much in taxes. Unbelievable. And over as an issue. Thank goodness Alex is just another clueless pundit this cycle and not giving Romney advice.

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