Men vs. women in debates

- The first presidential debate is set for September 26, and even though Donald Trump has not signed off on that yet, chatter has begun on how he needs to conduct himself on stage with a female opponent.

The political landscape is littered with male candidates who failed to pull this off by producing an audience backlash for crossing the line, whatever that line is.

Ms. Clinton is no stranger to this because when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002, during her first debate with Congressman Rick Lazio he walked across the stage to her podium urging her to sign a pledge to ban soft money from the campaign. As one columnist noted this invasion of her personal space looked "sexist and bullying" behavior and "it finished him."

No one expects Mr. Trump to repeat that mistake, but consultant Bob Kolt tells MIRS the GOP candidate needs to act professional and not engage in any "verbal abuse" of his female challenger. "It will be an absolute challenge for him. It is not in his nature," to respond that way.

Mr. Kolt believes looking like the "bully in the school yard" runs the risk of push back from the audience.

He recalls the debate for governor in 2006 when the lone female candidate, Jennifer Grnholm, went up against two male opponents, Jim Blanchard and David Bonior. When all was said and done, Mr. Kolt who was advising Mr. Blanchard, says the audience came away with one impression: "they were ganging up on her and there was a backlash."

Fast forward to the same contest only this time it was a debate between Ms. Granholm and GOP challenger Dick Posthumous who raised eyebrows by referring to the sitting state attorney general as "Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer," during one point in their exchange. Some female voters were offended by his "condescending" reference although after the debate Mr. Posthumous reported that the women he had talked to were not offended.  For the record, he dropped the name reference and simply referred to her as "my opponent" in their next face to face encounter.

Mr. Kolt indicates that Ms. Clinton has to be careful as well as she does not want to seen as "getting angry" if Mr. Trump tries to bait her which is especially important for the impact that might have on the male viewers in the audience. "She needs to be seen as the adult in the room."

Three debates are set for September 26, October 9 and 19.


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