With Bush maintaining an inexplicable lead in the US polls, John Kerry needs to make a big impact in the presidential debates. But are the debates already being rigged against him?
The BBC has some details of the debate rules:
One debate will feature questions from the audience, but the questions will be screened by the moderator.Well, it's nice to see that Kerry's camp won some concessions!
And the audience will not be made up of undecided voters, but of the candidates' "soft supporters" who have been selected by the Gallup poll organisation.
The Kerry campaign made several concessions in return for three debates instead of two.
The Bush campaign wanted lecterns 10ft (3m) apart and just 4ft (1.25m) high so that Mr Kerry would not appear to tower over the president.
The Bush campaign also fought hard to have visible warning lights to indicate when the candidates had gone over their allotted speaking time.
Each candidate will be given two minutes to answer and allowed 90 seconds for a rebuttal...
The candidates are also not allowed to question each other directly or step out from behind the lecterns...
His campaign also allowed the first debate to be on national security, which the Bush campaign believes to be its man's strength.
But the concessions were not all made by the Kerry camp.
The presidential march, Hail to the Chief, will not be played as Mr Bush enters the hall and the presidential seal will not appear on Mr Bush's lecterns.
Josh Micah Marshall speculates that MSNBC may be planning to use a guy called Frank Luntz as its focus group pollster and says such a decision would be so partisan as to defy comprehension. Marhsall provides this link to more info on Luntz:
Luntz, you may know, is one of the right-wing political gurus many on the left are both in awe of and enraged by -- a bogeyman in the same category as Karl Rove and Grover Norquist. His specialty is messaging; he's been credited with recasting "global warming" as "climate change," "tax cuts" as "tax relief," and "estate tax" as "death tax," among many others.Meanwhile, over at Counterpunch, John L Hess says the media has already begun touting Bush as the winner before the debates have even begun:
The moderator, Jim Lehrer, had Tim Russert on last night and they reminded each other how Bush whomped Al Gore in their debate four years ago. At noon today, PBS said merrily that Bush had cleaned Gore's clock.
But Bush did not win that debate. As Paul Krugman reminds us, a poll of viewers in their living rooms gave it to Gore. But in the back room where the media were hanging out, Bush's spin doctors were cleaning their clocks. They said, did you spot that body language--that sneer, that fuzzy math, that tie he was wearing, those tweeds -- whatever. There's a fresh news angle, just for you. By morning the headlines were calling Bush the winner.