Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Scoring the First Presidential Debate
Saturday, October 2, 2004

by Jon Pinyan

A comment on your scoring [Reference "Explanation of the Debate Scoring System used on 'The Green Papers'" -Ed.] for the Presidential Debate [Reference: FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2004 -Ed.]:

Just as a matter of personal opinion, this particular method of scoring seems somewhat silly (and invented to inflate boxers' egos, but that's a different story). Why not just declare each round {2-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1, 0-2}, {3-0, 2-1, 1-2, 0-3}, or something else? A 173-162 decision looks relatively "close" at a glance, whereas Kerry essentially outscored Bush 18-7. And if both of them suck in a given round, mark it as a tie.

Jon Pinyan,
Waldwick, New Jersey

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

In defense of our use of the "Ten Point Must" system in scoring these Debates, I will first note that 'The Green Papers' also used it to score the three Presidential Debates, as well as the only Vice-Presidential Debate of the 2000 Presidential Election campaign, to what I thought at the time- and still think to this day- was rather good effect: even though I willingly admit that the original reason for scoring those Debates four years ago in this way was "well, everyone else seems to be treating this first Bush/Gore Debate as if it were a heavyweight boxing match, so why not just take this concept to its (il?)logical conclusion?"

Mr. Pinyan's scoring alternatives, I feel, give far too much weight to the victor of a given "round". For instance, a 2-1 score vs. a 10-8 score gives 66.67% (2/3) of the round to the winner as opposed to 55.5% (10/18)-- which doesn't sound like all that much of a difference; however, a 3-0 vs. a 10-7, say, gives a winner of a "round" 100% as opposed to 58.8% (10/17). No one, in my opinion, ever "pitches a shutout" in these things and, to my mind, 10-7 (given only where the losing candidate does especially badly) is a far better reflection of reality than 3-0 would be.

I honestly think the final score we came up with of 173-162 in Kerry's favor for the September 30th Debate is a very good reflection of what I actually was seeing and hearing as I watched this Debate unfold (others, of course, are free to disagree with this result). Even absent the 'The Green Papers' debate scoring system, my own opinion of the Debate would still have been that, while Senator Kerry might have won handily, President Bush didn't fail absolutely (though, yes, Bush clearly had something of an "off" night- but, with two Presidential debates plus the Vice Presidential debates [can one really think Dick Cheney isn't going to do his utmost to "bail out" the President, if necessary, come Tuesday evening (5 October)?] to go, there is still more than enough time for the President to overcome any negatives resulting from his showing in the 30 September Debate which might yet show up re: any polls over the next couple days leading into the Vice Presidential Debate.

In the end, an 11-point (out of 180 possible points [18 x 10] for a candidate who might have won every single "round") win by John Kerry appears to have well been "in the ballpark" as regards this first debate. Therefore, I am strongly standing by our site's use of "Ten Point Must".


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