How to Host a Debate Party

The debates are back! With all the side stories and drama leading into the debate (The economy! Iraq! Lipstick!), there will be plenty of entertainment as the two leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties flex their presidential muscles.

With that in mind, why not try a little entertaining of our own. Here's a handy guide for throwing a last minute presidential debate watching party for all your political pals.

Do you want to mix it up and represent both sides of the aisle or go partisan so that the cheers and boos will all come at the same time? If you choose diversity, be sure both sides feel comfortable. As the host, look to moderator Jim Lehrer for advice on how to keep people in line and set some ground rules (as told to CNN's Larry King):

"Every debate I have moderated, my whole point at the very beginning, and all the candidates and everybody knows this, that if the thing gets out of hand and the rules become irrelevant for whatever reason, then I'm prepared to stop the debate and say, all right, gentlemen, you violated the rules."

Don't just go for the standard pretzel, chips and salsa combo. Here’s how to get creative.
•    Appetizer Salad: Prepare an arugula salad and make a joke about Obama sticking his foot in his mouth before a group of Iowa farmers last year when he said, "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”
•    First Course: Cook up
•    Cindy McCain's own (or is it Rachael Ray's?) recipe for Ahi tuna and cabbage slaw.
•    Main Course: BBQ Ribs are a McCain family favorite when the Senator is grilling at his Sedona Ranch.
•    Desert: Whip up Cindy McCain's famous Oatmeal Butterscotch cookies…or is that Hershey's (STOCK QUOTE: HSY) famous recipe?

A good drink is key, especially if you are dancing around the best way to facedown foreign dictators.
•    For the GOP crowd, serve old-fashioned American beer like Budweiser (STOCK QUOTE: BUD). Wait. They sold out to a Belgian company? Okay, go with Coors (STOCK QUOTE: TAP)
•    As for those fancy liberals, maybe start with a nice Napa Valley Chard during the pre-debate and move onto a smoky Pinot for when the action heats up.
•    And you can’t forget to have a bottle of Popov or Smirnoff vodka on hand for when the foreign policy discussion turns towards Russia and Vladimir Putin.

The actual debate will look almost exactly the same no matter what channel you're watching, but take your audience into account when selecting where to go to for pre and post election coverage.
•    Nothing incenses a liberal more than five minutes on Fox News ( STOCK QUOTE: NWS).
•    If you want to see a conservative get riled up, just put them in front of MSNBC's (STOCK QUOTE: GE) left wing star Keith Olbermann for 25 seconds.
•    To keep things neutral, the best choice is probably CNN, (STOCK QUOTE: TWX) though to keep things totally even, go with C-Span or PBS.

For some, just watching the debate is entertainment enough. But not for you, party planner extraordinaire. A few games to liven things up never hurts.
•    Buzzword Bingo: Make bingo sheets with different words in each square that could appear in the debate. First one to fill out a straight line wins. Some ideas for words: General Petraeus, Surge, Extremists, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Appeasement, Hillary Clinton, Lobbyists.
•    Drinking Game: Like any great drinking game, make your own rules. Every time the camera shows a crowd shot of Sarah Palin, drink! Every time Obama gives a long-winded answer, drink! Every time John McCain starts a sentence with "My friends", drink!
•    Post-Debate Surrogate Draft: Have a draft where everyone picks who they think the first high-profile surrogates to appear on TV will be. Do you go with McCain's good friend Senator Joe Lieberman? Or Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod?
One thing to remember that if you're going to play games, be sure to provide some sort of prize (like a bumper sticker). Except for the drinking game. Everyone's a winner (and loser) with that one.