How can he win? Three ways that George can win, and none of them are beneath Karl Rove.
First, George ignores the rules. He completely ignores them. Kerry negotiates in good faith and has prepped to follow them. George looks funny and smooth, Kerry is seething and furious. He particularly ignores rules he personally demanded, rules Kerry was happy or willing to accept, but seemed arbitrary. However, these arbitrary rules were used by Kerry when prepping for the debate so he is handicapped.
Second, George makes comments calculated to enrage Kerry beyond reason. He makes a funny remark about a horrible death Kerry has seen, or cracks on someone Kerry saw die in Vietnam. He mangles a word to create a reference to some Vietnam horror, and then feigns innocence if confronted. He uses Vietnam and suggests Kerry did not earn his metals. Kerry reacts in a way that appears pompous on tv, while only people who are informed and thoughtful see what a slime W is. W did this to McCain. He insulted McCain so horribly that McCain was almost speechless. He did it with a bobble-headed grin.
Third, George spreads a vile rumor and then makes a high-handed reference. Again, with McCain he implied he had an mixed-race out-of-marriage child via push polls. So he push-polls some vile charge. Like when Rove implied his opponent was a pedophile because he was a committed judge who worked tirelessly to protect children, then had his candidate repeatedly praise the opponent’s “love for children” . So get ready for Kerry’s “love for the young men in his unit” or some such thing that can only mean that _only_ the campaigns know about the charges being made against Kerry. Again, fill Kerry with rage and make him less articulate.
Fourth, he wins the spin. This is what happened with Gore. Bush made outrageously false statements but the Bush war room provided pre-made stories to the brain-dead press. Funny stories about body posture and sighs and stuff like that. Not boring stuff about policy or war.
How to respond?
For the first, prepare with reference to the rules, but with some plan as to what to do if they get thrown out the window. Realize the moderator will do nothing.
Second, say vile things. really vile things. You will never be as vile as W but try. Imagine the most horrific thing W could say. Then multiply it by ten. No one in Kerry’s camp can come up with something low enough for Kerry to prepare.
Third, repeat all the cheapest of the cheap shots in the practice runs. Call him everything. Pop out with the obscene and expect Kerry in practice to stay cool. Call his mother a word too vile to type. Practice keeping cool and staying on message: “This is not about my mom, this is about all those mothers who don’t want their sons drafted.”
Fourth, Dems need to realize the press is vacuous. You CANNOT underestimate them. Have fact corrections out but have truly infantile press releases ready as well. Nothing is too stupid and cute for the press to bite. You cannot talk down to them, they are already so far down when you address them as idiots they still have to gear up to hear you. Watch the blogs – they will help. They are brainpower.
And he can always say, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”