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Politics & Government

Experts: Walker And Other Candidates Have Undergone Intense Preparations for Debate

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GOP Candidates Square Off At Voters First Forum In New Hampshire

On Monday night, many of the GOP candidates for president answered questions at a forum in New Hampshire. It was not a debate; rather, each candidate took a turn. The first debate is set for Thursday night. 

Fox News will host; 10 candidates will take part, including Gov. Walker.

The Republican candidates have been undergoing grueling practice sessions for weeks, according to Christopher Murray. He’s a political scientist at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center for Government. Murray says campaign staffs have been going all out to prepare their candidates, including, staging mock debates.

“Somebody will essentially stand in as a proxy for the other candidates, to basically be somebody you can actually practice against, and this person will essentially answer questions as this candidate would answer questions and will talk the way that they talk,” Murray says.

Murray says the 10 candidates must also practice making their points succinctly, because each will get only a minimal amount of time to speak during the debate. UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee says, what’s also crucial, is precision.

“The goal is first not to make a mistake, not to make a gaffe. When you misstate something in a debate that’s live to a national audience and if you blow it, that’s the end of your candidacy. Everybody remembers when Gov. Perry did the ‘oops’ moment when he couldn’t think of the three federal agencies that he wanted to abolish. That’s the kind of thing that all the candidates will be preparing against,” Lee says.

As for Gov. Walker, Lee says he’s likely been practicing for weeks. He thinks Walker will handle himself just as he did during his gubernatorial debates. “He has his prepared sound bites on every subject. He’ll say his sound bite and then he’ll stop talking. If there’s a follow up question that tries to push him farther, he’ll briefly repeat what he’s already said. He won’t go there in the way journalists would like politicians to do,” Lee says.

Lee expects Walker to demonstrate that he is well-versed on both domestic and foreign policy issues. Yet he may have some explaining to do, according to UW-Madison Political Science Professor David Canon. He predicts Walker’s opponents will challenge him on several issues on which he’s flipped his point of view.

“On things like immigration where he used to favor a path to citizenship to now being opposed to that, to ethanol to even things like abortion. He had an ad during the governor’s race where he appeared to sound sympathetic to a pro-choice position. He has to be ready to respond to those in an effective way that doesn’t come across as being too defensive,” Canon says.

Canon is sure Walker and the other hopefuls have also been practicing how to deal with candidate and business mogul Donald Trump. He has criticized Walker for the way he’s handled state finances. Canon would advise the candidates to treat Trump with respect, because they might face him in future debates.

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