Editor's note: Todd Graham is the director of debate at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He has coached his teams to national championships and has been honored with the Ross K. Smith national debate coach of the year award. Graham has analyzed presidential debates for five elections.
Tune in for the CNN Republican Debate at 8 p.m. ET.
(CNN) - Well, Todd, who won? I hear that question a lot after presidential debates. And with the sheer number of debates in the campaign for the Republican nomination, it may get to the point where everyone feels qualified to give an opinion as a debate expert.
But as an actual debate expert, I can tell you there is something of an art to determining who won, who blew it and who's still alive. Here's what you should watch for if you're keeping score at home:
Argument depth. Get beneath the surface. Seriously, I love the 9-9-9 plan. It's catchy, it rhymes and Herman Cain says it with such pleasure that it's hard not to like the idea. I've even instituted my own 9-9-9 plans wherever I can - into my dinner recipes, into my golf game, and even into my workouts. But then a friend asked me how Cain's 9-9-9 plan would raise the same amount of revenue that our government currently brings in without increasing the burden on either the middle class or the poor. And I couldn't answer the question. I was so mesmerized by the catch phrase of the day that I failed to note that Cain had not gone into depth about his plan. You can do better with one simple test: Did the candidate talk in glittering generalities about their ideas, or did he or she provide specifics?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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