Dec. 7, 2015
John Turner, director of the Dartmouth Forensics Union, one of the nation's top debate teams, is available to provide analysis of the upcoming presidential primary debates.
The Republicans have held four debates and have seven remaining — the next is Tuesday, Dec. 15. The Democrats have had two debates and have four remaining — the next is Saturday, Dec. 19.
"On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina has used strong debate performances to vault onto the national stage," Turner says. "Though her evidence is questionable, she's tapped an authoritative CEO voice that avoids Donald Trump's bombast and Ben Carson's detachment. While George W. Bush famously benefited from lowered debate expectations, thus far Jeb Bush has suffered from the gap between his reputation as the smarter brother and his inability to appear either engaging or commanding.
"On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton's performances have been delivered under less pressure, and her command of policy details has solidified her front-runner status. Bernie Sanders will need to link his forceful populist appeals for economic equality to other issues if he expects to beat Clinton on a debate stage."
Turner says this election cycle's debates represent an especially difficult version of the classical challenge of cultivating a distinctive form of authority while preserving affability. "With a large number of GOP candidates laying claim to an outsider ethos, this year's primary debates may see fundamental changes to the rhetorical persona considered reasonable for the general election," he says.
The Dartmouth Forensics Union has won six national debate championships and been a semi-finalist 15 times since the founding of the National Debate Tournament in 1947. Turner formerly was a student debater at Dartmouth and assistant debate coach at Dartmouth, Emory University and the University of Georgia. He is in his first year as head coach at Dartmouth, where he succeeded Ken Strange, one of the nation's top debate coaches over the past three decades.
John Turner can be reached at John.Cameron.Turner@dartmouth.edu.
Last Updated: 12/21/15