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Clinton May Have to Alter Her "Above it All" Approach, says MU Communication Expert

Nov. 14, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan C. Daniels, 573-882-9144,
Mitchell S. McKinney, 573-355-0257 (cell),

COLUMBIA, Mo. – All eyes will be on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as the presidential hopefuls square off in Las Vegas. Mitchell S. McKinney, associate professor of communication at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an international expert on presidential debates, said Thursday night’s forum will be a pivotal debate for Clinton.

 In recent weeks, and especially after last month’s debate in Philadelphia, party opponents have been increasingly critical of Clinton. Many analysts have focused on gender dynamics of the race.

 McKinney has closely examined Clinton’s previous debate performances as well as her U.S. Senate campaign debates. In addition, he has published research on mixed-gender campaign debates and found that female candidates are just as likely to use so-called “masculine” communication strategies as their male counterparts.

 “Senator Clinton frequently adopts an ‘above it all’ debate strategy, resisting direct confrontation with her primary opponents and often refusing to rebut attacks made against her,” McKinney said. “As primary voting nears, however, and especially following her recent debate performance, she may now be required to alter her typical debate style.”

  In addition to advising several national and international debate committees, McKinney has conducted extensive research of various candidates in their previous debate performances, including such candidates as George W. Bush and Al Gore in their 2000 presidential debates and John Kerry and John Edwards in their 2004 Democratic primary debates. 

 In 1992, he consulted with the Commission on Presidential Debates, advising the Commission on how debates could be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues. The author of The 1992 Presidential Debates in Focus, McKinney has co-authored and edited four other books and numerous research articles on presidential debates. 

 Most recently, he advised the presidential debate committee of South Korea as Seoul officials planned their 2002 televised presidential debates.
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