Thursday evening, the eyes of the political world will be on a stage in Cleveland, Ohio, where the top candidates for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination will face off in the first in a series of debates to be held over the next several months. A few of the candidates will have had significant debate experience — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for instance, is actually in the Princeton University Debate Team Hall of Fame — but many (e.g., Donald Trump, as he’s been reminding us) will have not. Cruz may actually be handicapped by his previous debate experience — a political debate is a totally different animal than a college debate. Consequently, the Rules for Winning Political Debates are also totally different — and the smarter candidates will be the ones who know that, and act accordingly.
Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: “Victory” in a political debate has nothing to do with being the candidate who offers the most compelling and logical arguments for his or her position.