The Debates

by John J. Pitney, Jr.

The weekend debates probably didn’t have much impact. The main reason is that there have been so many other debates. By this point, all the candidates have their talking points down: Even Rick Perry could remember the three departments he would abolish. From the viewers’ perspective, these events have reached the point of rapidly diminishing marginal returns. The early debates had a significant effect because people were forming their first impressions of the candidates. Much of the audience had never seen Rick Perry and had not seen Newt Gingrich in a long time. But viewers with the motivation to watch on Saturday night or Sunday morning had probably seen previous debates. Frankly, to put it in Gingrichian terms, it would have taken something radical, absurd or grotesque to shift their opinions profoundly or fundamentally.

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