Notre Dame ReSource: Debates put focus on telegenic skills

Author: Dennis K. Brown

The quadrennial presidential debates – more than the conventions, commercials or campaign stops – put the telegenic skills of candidates to their most decisive test, according to a Notre Dame professor who specializes in the media and politics.p. “Because of television, the ‘living-room factorplays an increasingly significant role in presidential politics,” wrote Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies, in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor. "To a certain degree, the road to Washingtons 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes through your residence.p. “Textbooks might describe national campaigns as contests of ideas, competing policies, and proposals charting the countrys future. But those messages, by and large, come to us via our TV sets from candidates as concerned with how they dramatize themselves and their cause as with any wonkish prospectus or 12-point plan.”p. It is the debates, Schmuhl says, that will give viewers/voters the best and longest looks at President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.p. “Especially for undecided voters, the living room will become a critical precinct for taking the measure of each candidate,” Schmuhl noted. "At its heart, the viewers decision is deeply personal: What animates or drives each nominee? Which one seems more genuine and convincing? Who am I most comfortable with to lead the nation in troubling times?p. “Winning the Oval Office can depend on how well candidates come across in our living rooms – and whether or not we want to keep welcoming them into our homes.”p. Schmuhl, the director of Notre Dames Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics&Democracy, is the author of “Statecraft and Stagecraft: American Political Life in the Age of Personality.”p. _Contact: Robert Schmuhl is available for interviews at 574-631-5128 or His op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor is available online at: _ p.

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