Hayward did the honorable thing and rushed through the starting gate with his predictions. I am pausing to see how the Mondale-Coleman debate goes this morning (10 a.m. central time--should be aired on FOX and I would think C-SPAN). But in fairness, I will reveal to Schramm and Hayward the thinking process on the delay. First, I am told that polls showed that if Mondale refused to debate, he would have lost the election. He therefore agreed, but agreed to this strange morning event rather than a prime time event, in order to give the event less impact.
This suggests to me that Mondale’s handlers are nervous about how he will do. They are right to be worried. I have distant memories of Fritz debating Reagan, and needless to say Fritz was no Churchill at the podium. That said, however, I think it is fair to assume that Coleman’s oratorical style is not likely to be confused with Reagan’s any time soon.
So where does that leave us? My sense is that the race is Mondale’s to lose. If he does poorly, or if he gaffes, then he is in trouble. He could also be in trouble if he allows Coleman to dominate the debate, either through consistently offering superior answers, or through some memorable quip in response. But if the debate is like most, with the candidates offering canned responses targetted to key constituencies, from which there is no clear winner, then Mondale emerges as the victor, both of the debate and of the election.