Debate preview: How Romney can win

posted at 12:41 pm on October 3, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Tonight, Mitt Romney has the opportunity to change the trajectory of this race against Barack Obama in the first of three presidential debates.  This is arguably the most important of the three, as low-information voters may be getting their first close look at Mitt Romney since the primary debates ended months ago — or perhaps ever.  In my column for The Week, I game out the stakes in this Denver debate, and offer three keys to Romney’s strategy:

1. Romney has to transcend the debate agenda. Successful candidates use questions as mere suggestions, while answering their own questions to drive a debate narrative. Both Obama and Romney will do this, but Republicans assume that media moderators will drive the debate into territory friendlier for Obama than Romney. Romney has to take control and drive the debate, not let the moderator keep him pinned on defense — and that’s an entirely legitimate strategy for voters, too. As Romney is running against an incumbent president, the focus should be on Obama’s performance and his plans for a second-term agenda.

2. Romney has to assert himself without looking overly aggressive. That’s no easy feat. Al Gore lost the debate battle against George W. Bush by alternately looking too aggressive and then too impatient. Obama ended up prevailing over John McCain by projecting a collegial-if-not-friendly mien while dispensing with McCain’s arguments. Lower-information voters have to see Romney as something other than the Thurston Howell caricature that Team Obama has painted, while still pressing Obama on his economic failures and lack of any clear second-term agenda.  The tone used in his ad last week, in which he spoke directly into the camera for 60 seconds about the economy, would work well in this setting to reassure undecided voters that Romney will be a safe alternative to Obama.

3. Romney has to construct an overarching narrative of executive incompetence in the Obama White House. This first debate will focus on the economy, but Romney needs to draw on more issues than that to make his case. Obama will respond on the economic issues by claiming that the grave nature of the recession handicapped the recovery, and that his policies will eventually work to create jobs faster than population growth, a pace with which the Obama recovery has failed to keep up. Romney needs to use the economy to discuss the inept handling of consular security in Benghazi and the Arab Spring in general, as well as Operation Fast and Furious, to show that the entire administration has run off the rails. That will negate Obama’s blame-Bush-and-Republicans defense for the economy, and strengthen Romney’s case that Obama simply doesn’t have the executive talent for his current position.

Actually, it will be interesting to see whether Romney has to force the issue of Benghazi into the debate.  The announced topic is domestic policy, but BuzzFeed’s Michael Hastings reported yesterday that the moderator, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, has all the leeway he needs to go beyond the announced agenda:

According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, tomorrow’s moderator, PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, has the leeway to ask any questions he wants — including topics dominating the headlines, as Libya is now.

“We don’t have any say in what the moderator asks whatsoever,” the spokesperson for the Presidential Debate Commission Bob Roy told BuzzFeed. “The only rule for the debates is that the moderator decides what is asked.”

A spokeswoman for Lehrer, Anne Bell, told BuzzFeed in an email that “the overall debate topic is domestic policy” but that “when Jim Lehrer announced the general topics for the debate he did indicate that is was subject to change in the event news warranted.”

I’d expect that to come early in the debate, either through Lehrer or through Romney.  Will Barack Obama be prepared for that?  Supposedly he’s shirking his debate prep in Nevada, and that’s not uncommon, according to the man who prepped Jimmy Carter for his disastrous debate performance against Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Samuel Popkin has written a book about incumbents and debates, and argues that incumbents get too wrapped up in sycophantic bubbles to prepare properly for debates — and have little stomach for practice, too:

Samuel Popkin, a political-science professor at the University of California (San Diego), advised three Democratic nominees before their debates. He was brought to Camp David in 1980 to play the role of Reagan in debate prep for Carter. Like Stockman four years later, Popkin incurred the wrath of his president, as he disclosed for the first time in his new book, The Candidate: What It Takes to Win—and Hold—the White House. Aides knew that Carter was unprepared for Reagan and ordered Popkin to “hold nothing back.” So in his very first answer, he used Reagan’s own words to pummel the president. “I could see that Carter was bewildered. When I spoke he would alternately feign a smile or wrinkle his nose in disgust; look away from me in embarrassment or glare at me in anger,” he wrote.

Popkin told National Journal, “I really thought the Secret Service was going to kneecap me. Carter turned red in the face and got flustered, and, after only 11 minutes he said, ‘That is enough’ and tried to call it off.”

Popkin said he had always believed that reaction was unique to Carter until he started researching his book and discovered that every incumbent resists the prep work and reacts badly to being challenged. “Nobody on staff ever questions a president’s motives and nobody around him ever challenges him,” he said, contending there is very much an “emperor-has-no-clothes” aspect for leaders who have spent four years sheltered in the protective presidential bubble and surrounded by sycophantic aides.

Then add to that resistance the fact that incumbents are almost always rusty when it comes to debating. Romney this year has spent 43 hours in 23 separate debates. Never flashy, he was solid and disciplined, clearly losing only one debate when he impulsively challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to make a $10,000 bet. In contrast, Obama has not debated in four years. And while he improved as a debater over the course of 2008, he stumbled far more often than Romney did this year. Obama was too often professorial and discursive and found it difficult to be concise. He promised in one debate to meet with America’s enemies with no preconditions, and in another he was seen as cruel to Hillary Rodham Clinton when he coldly assessed her likability. In his general-election debates, he was blessed with low expectations against the much more experienced John McCain.

National Journal also games out the potential domestic-policy topics that will arise, and provides a good (if necessarily brief) analysis of how each topic may play for Romney and Obama.  Andrew Malcolm analyzes the stakes, and the way candidates react to the “high wire” act:

But these debates are rarely important as individual events. Instead, taken together they provide an impressionistic narrative arc for viewers to soak up what these men are about, how they carry themselves, listen, speak under pressure.

From a living room couch, voters may ponder the unimaginable pressures at play. It’s true. They’re intense. It’s bad for staffers, worse for spouses.

But at this level of politics, the candidates I’ve seen up close actually relish the moment. They enjoy walking the high-wire. They’ve campaigned typically for years, sometimes with an audience of but one or two. Now, their every word will reach scores of millions.

And whoever said seeking the pressurized presidency should be easy? ….

The Republican needs to be aggressive without stridency, to look like he’s willing to fight for the job, which he did at times during the 220 Republican primary debates. (OK, it just seemed that way; there were ‘only’ 22).

Romney needs to confront Obama over the weeks of false ads that have given the Democrat poll leads in crucial swing states. With no economic record to run on and no second-term agenda beyond the slogan “Forward,” Obama is likely to play considerable defense. He wants to avoid any mistakes that would elevate Romney’s stature by comparison.

History shows that the debates usually result in elevated status for the challenger no matter what, thanks to the difficulty of playing defense in debates.  That’s probably going to be the case tonight as well, if Romney remains as focused and disciplined as he was in the primary debates.

Note: We’ll be covering tonight’s debate, of course, but I won’t be available to watch it live, thanks to a commitment at school this evening.  Be sure to follow Mary Katharine Ham and Erika Johnsen on Twitter for their analysis.


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Bishop will never read this…

Seven Percent Solution on October 3, 2012 at 12:44 PM

he needs to attack with the facts.

ted c on October 3, 2012 at 12:44 PM

OT but i know we’re all interested in how much ad spending is going on. http://mediaproject.wesleyan.edu/2012/10/03/obama-dominates-ads-in-key-states/#more-2014

Donald Draper on October 3, 2012 at 12:45 PM

There’s a debate?

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Why? The news has been telling me that Obama has won the swing states by an overwhelming margin.

I assumed the whole thing had been canceled.

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Obumbler: “That’s a good question Jim, but I’m just here as eye candy for these debates!”

Deano1952 on October 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Debates do nothing.

As if any of the Holsteins, who voted for The Commie, the first time, won’t vote for him, again.

And if you’re an “Independent,” and you voted for The Commie, the first time – you’ll vote for The Commie, again. You’ve proven yourself an imbecile and a coward. An imbecile, because you voted for The Commie, the first time. A coward, because you’re nothing but a Commie, who’s afraid to admit it.

I’m not watching a second of any of the debates. To put it bluntly, just looking at The Commie makes me both furious, and wanting to vomit.

Y’all enjoy.

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 12:49 PM

What are the drinking rules for tonight’s domestic policy debate?

aunursa on October 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Obama should just go play golf. It won’t matter, they’ll vote for him anyway.

rhombus on October 3, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Wonder if we can keep count on how many times bho blames Bush? Mitt needs to slam home bho has been president for almost four years and he owns this gosh horrible mess our nation is in, not Bush!
L

letget on October 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

What are the drinking rules for tonight’s domestic policy debate?

aunursa on October 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM

..early and often?

The War Planner on October 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

anyone concerned about the ad spending should read the Jay Cost piece at hotair — takes the NYT article apart.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Wonder if we can keep count on how many times bho blames Bush? Mitt needs to slam home bho has been president for almost four years and he owns this gosh horrible mess our nation is in, not Bush!
L

letget on October 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Or, he can just quote Joe.

Slainte on October 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Go Mitt Go

gophergirl on October 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Obama has never been challenged by the press corps or anyone else in his career. McCain was worthless in the debates, couldn’t even string three coherent sentences together, on top of which he mumbled like a doddering old man.

Tonight may be very telling.

I am hoping Obama loses his temper, so that 50 million Americans can see the vile man behind the mask.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Like i said before jim will give all the time to dear leader to bloviate and give mitt no time to rebut

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

If the MSM commentators declare it a “draw,” then Romney won.

If the MSM commentators say Romney was too aggressive, then Romney won.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Here is a quote I’d love to hear Romney use tonight.

“Mr. President, I know George W Bush…he’s a friend of mine. And I’m no George W Bush…just like you’re no Bill Clinton”

ForThemWhatCare on October 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Have fun Ed

We’ll drink one for you

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Got to enjoy a debate with Cruz vs Stadler last night. Hope Romney can match that. After attacking Cruz in every way he could think of Stadler was reduced to angry mumbling as they were signing off.

DanMan on October 3, 2012 at 12:59 PM

What are the drinking rules for tonight’s domestic policy debate?

aunursa on October 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Not sure about the rules, but here are the phrases to watch for:

– Let me be perfectly clear
– … the policies of my predecessor
– We can’t return to the same old policies that got us here in the first place
– My administration inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression
– My opponent would have let the American auto industry die
– We saved GM
– Osama is dead

On the other side: Face Palm moment:
– My opponent is a nice guy who meant well, but is just in over his head

I say face palm just because brick to the TV is too expensive

Actually, maybe instead of a drinking game, this needs a bingo card

AZfederalist on October 3, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I think trying to score out a specific winner and loser on one debate is kind of silly. I realize it gives the pundits something to do and makes them feel relevant,..but,..still…..
The overall impression after all of them is more important, imo.

a capella on October 3, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Romney needs to attack the comment by Clinton at the DNC. He needs to say that he rejects the idea that this country, the greatest country the world has ever seen, filled with the most industrious people that have ever populated the earth with the vast amount of resources that we have, CAN NOT recover from the recession.

He can agree that it will be impossible to recover with the current administration and its policies, but please Mr. Obama, don’t blame the American people for your failures.

dirtseller on October 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Note: We’ll be covering tonight’s debate, of course, but I won’t be available to watch it live, thanks to a commitment at school this evening.

Here, let me help you out Ed. Obama wins this debate, the editorials have already been written. Don’t waste your precious time watching the repeats.

JPeterman on October 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Romney should bring up the big conservative ideas that were brought up during the Republican debates:

1. Tax cuts for the rich
2. Giant electrified fence at the border
3. Moonbases
4. Stopping immunizations so people don’t become retarded
5. Car elevator tax credit
6. 2 pizzas for $9.99!

All winning ideas.

ZippyZ on October 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Everything in Mitt Romney’s life has led to this moment. He knows what he must accomplish to get elected, and that is to take Obama apart and talk directly to the American people.

We got a preview in the 60 Minutes piece — do we want liberty and free enterprise; or do we want our lives controlled by government.

Essentially freedom versus faster steps into darkness, decay, and despair.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Mitt needs to slam home bho has been president for almost four years and he owns this gosh horrible mess our nation is in, not Bush!

He could also point out Obama voted for the very things he accuses Bush of not vetoing.

DanMan on October 3, 2012 at 1:01 PM

I’m not sure I have the stomach to watch tonight. Mitt needs to directly challenge Obama on his record and implore him to be accountable for it. We know what Obama’s defenses will be, everything from what he inherited to congressional Republicans. Romney needs to flip that back on him and say that the buck seems to stop everywhere else BUT at your desk. And, pound away on the theme that we simply cannot go another four years in the same direction. Not that we shouldn’t, or that it would be a bad idea…that we CANNOT, period.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Preview of tonight:

Obama: We need to make whitey pay and I’m the half whitey to do it!

Romney: I believe in half whiteys and all whiteys and no whiteys…. I believe in America and I believe that children are the future.

America is doomed

lm10001 on October 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

We can pretty much guess how the trolls tonight will be: Obama looks ‘presidential’ while Mitt is obviously disconnected from the middle class. The debates won’t be enough of an argument for the trolls, who will be here to gloat and simply argue no matter how bad a show Obama puts on.

Tomorrow, the MSM will say much the same things we’ll hear tonight, adding in that Obama ‘won’. Hell’s bells! The media are already saying Obama has defeated Romney in the election, and one troll here has such a fetish for polls that he is assured the results are evidence of an Obama win.

I truly hope Mitt has his act together enough to sway many remaining waverers to our side and keep them there, wiping the floor (so to speak) with Obama. But there’s no way the MSM are going to be honest about it from the questioning tonight all the way through to Election Day.

Liam on October 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

The headline now is “Romneys next problem, donor apathy. It’s all about how Romney has no money and no one wants to donate to him…

sandee on October 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

“Obama made it worse” would be my advice to Romney. Obama inherited a mess, but the next president is going to inherit a bigger mess, Obama’s mess.

monalisa on October 3, 2012 at 1:05 PM

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Of course you should watch. Several of us have been pulling for Mitt for months and we should be pulling for him over the screen. Mitt is ready and will perform. I expect it to be the best night of his political career to date.

We have every reason to be optimistic. The threshold for the challenger in the first debate is minimal; the challenger wins by not being chased off the stage standing next to any president.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

I would love to hear Mitt say this when bho lies about ALL the good things he has done for jobs, etc., ‘We have checked with fact checker and government agencies, and it seems you get four pinoccios on your statement, mr. president’! This is a way of saying bho is lying without actually saying so?
L

letget on October 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Obama’s problem will be looking too rehearsed since he’ll already know what the questions will be. This act alone will be worth the price of the popcorn.

DanMan on October 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

but please Mr. Obama, don’t blame the American people for your failures.

dirtseller on October 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Love this.

monalisa on October 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Exactly danman

cmsinaz on October 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

We’ll certainly be watching, but I’ll be in the office using hubby’s kick-butt, wired pooter, just to keep up with y’all !!
Frankly, I’m not at all worried. It’ll all be mis-construed anyway.
My hopes are that Zero comes across as the dangerous but empty chair he truly is.
I pray, and expect, that Mitt’s integrity will lead his steps.

pambi on October 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Obama won’t lay an egg. Neither will Mitt. I call a draw. Neither will be too aggressive tonight.

mrscullen on October 3, 2012 at 1:09 PM

On the other side: Face Palm moment:
– My opponent is a nice guy who meant well, but is just in over his head

I say face palm just because brick to the TV is too expensive

Actually, maybe instead of a drinking game, this needs a bingo card

AZfederalist on October 3, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I suspect there will be a campaign question, something along the lines of ‘both of you have run some pretty harsh ads. can you name one thing you admire about the other guy?’.

For me, I’m hoping for a humanizing moment where Romney can show a different side than voters may know. That might be more important than anything.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:09 PM

I just hope Romney doesn’t apologize so much that it embarasses us.

PappyD61 on October 3, 2012 at 1:10 PM

It’s the morning before the presidential debate, so about now Hot Air is putting the finishing touches on their piece about how Romney won the debate.

Constantine on October 3, 2012 at 1:10 PM

………..and that Obama reveals himself.

But that the AMERICAN PEOPLE CARE when he does.

PappyD61 on October 3, 2012 at 1:11 PM

the MSM will never let Obama lose. at best it will be tie at worst an Obama win.

I actually think that as far as the debates go Mitt just has to be a credible president. I think that will add 1-2 percent to his polls and will swing the close states to him.

gerrym51 on October 3, 2012 at 1:11 PM

It won’t be hard to top McCain’s debate

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Mitt will have to do the MSM’s job for them since they don’t do jack. A lot of those “low info voters” will hear some stuff about Obama for the first time no doubt.

Dongemaharu on October 3, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Of course you should watch. Several of us have been pulling for Mitt for months and we should be pulling for him over the screen. Mitt is ready and will perform. I expect it to be the best night of his political career to date.

We have every reason to be optimistic. The threshold for the challenger in the first debate is minimal; the challenger wins by not being chased off the stage standing next to any president.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

I hope you’re right. My hesitation has more to do with frustration over the biased questions than anything else.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Given that this went out in an email from “David Axelrod”, I’m inclined to think that the choice of date for the debate tonight was very deliberate.

If you hear mention of Obama’s anniversary tonight, it was planned. An attempt to get more “awwww…” sympathy from women.

From: David Axelrod
Date: Tue, Oct 2, 2012
Subject: I suppose you can’t plan everything
To: [redacted]

[redacted] –

My friends Barack and Michelle Obama will have been married 20 years exactly this Wednesday.

That’s also the day that Barack will face off with Mitt Romney for the very first presidential debate of this election.

I suppose you can’t plan everything — even when you’re president of the United States.

But there’s something we can all do to help send them off into the last month of this election feeling good:

Add your name and well-wishes to a 20th anniversary card for Barack and Michelle.

This race will be close until the very end, and tomorrow will be an important day for the campaign.

But let’s take a moment to show Barack and Michelle that we wish them well in life, not just in politics.

Add your name to the card today:

http://my.barackobama.com/Anniversary-Card

Then, let’s dig in and get ready for the next 35 days.

David

—–
More than 3 million people like you power this campaign. If you can, please donate today.

Contributions or gifts to Obama for America are not tax deductible

This email was sent to: [redacted].
If that is not your preferred email address, you can update your information here.

We believe that emails are a vital way for the campaign to stay in direct contact
with supporters. Click here if you’d like to unsubscribe from these messages.
This campaign is a community, and all ideas are welcome.
We appreciate any feedback you might have — positive or negative.
Click here to contact the campaign with any questions or concerns.
Obama for America, P.O. Box 803638, Chicago, IL, 60680

But Obama won’t be asked why his Twitter account follows a porn feed, and he won’t be asked these questions.

ITguy on October 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

I’m not sure I have the stomach to watch tonight.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:02 PM

I don’t think Romney is really under that much pressure. He needs to project dignity and quiet confidence, and he needs to refute Obama’s lies and half-truths. I think he can easily do this.

Remember, during the primaries, all of the ABR’s were ranting that the only thing Romney had going for him was that he “looked presidential”? It’s not much of a stretch to say that that is his most important goal tonight, and one that he comes by naturally.

Priscilla on October 3, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Tonight, Mitt Romney has the opportunity to change the trajectory of this race against Barack Obama in the first of three presidential debates.

Mitt does not need to change the trajectory. He merely needs to be himself and appear presidential to keep the momentum going.

Here’s an excerpt from Mike Flynn’s excellent analysis at Breitbart.

In the past two weeks, virtually every media poll has shown a narrowing of the presidential race. Obama’s lead is now beneath the Democrat skew in polls. In other words, a D+5 poll, for example, will give him a lead of 2-3 points. Another poll with a D+7 sample will show him tied. The numbers change, but his lead has never exceeded the partisan oversampling in any poll. He has never held a lead in any poll that has a more realistic turnout of the November elections.

You poll a lot of Democrats, Obama wins. You poll based on a realistic turnout of the November elections? Obama loses.

Mike Flynn: Obama needs a debate knockout.

Basilsbest on October 3, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Let the presidential debates begin! Herd in the sacred cows low information voters!

Valkyriepundit on October 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM

I suppose you can’t plan everything — even when you’re president of the United States.
[Excerpt from ITguy's post]

No, all you can do, when you’re a filthy Commie, in the Oval Office, is make a Five Year Plan, and when it fails, make another Five Year Plan, and when it fails …

Damn those term limits!

Five Year Plans and failure – it’s what Commie Presidents “plan.”

OhEssYouCowboys on October 3, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Heh, prevarications

Schadenfreude on October 3, 2012 at 1:17 PM

PappyD61 on October 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM

This, from a guy who’s now worth $11,000,000.

kingsjester on October 3, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Someone may have already mentioned this above, but in case not:
In the ’08 debate Lehrer moderated, the declared topic was foreign policy, but the financial crisis had just hit and Lehrer decided to devote a significant chunk of time to that. (Which, of course, was not exactly McCain’s strong suit.) So, not only does Lehrer have the leeway to deviate from the declared topics, but he has done so before. My guess is that he will mention something about foreign policy or national security in his opening comments at the start of the debate, and will devote at least one question to the embassy attacks.

acasilaco on October 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Romney needs to come forward with some specific proposals of his own, including a corporate tax cut (to make US companies competitive with foreign corporations), building the Keystone XL pipeline, expanding offshore drilling and drilling on Federal lands (or allowing states to regulate it), gutting ObamaCare by granting waivers to all 50 (or 57) states, and education vouchers.

He also needs to debunk Obama’s contention that Romney wants to cut taxes for the wealthy while increasing them for the middle class. He needs to clearly state that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire in January 2013 would INCREASE taxes on the middle class (and give figures), and that he, Romney, would sign an extension to the Bush tax cuts which would PREVENT the tax increase Obama wants.

He also needs to state clearly that allowing ObamaCare to take effect would take $716 billion of funding away from Medicare to fund health insurance for younger people, and that it is Obama who is truly “pushing Grandma over the cliff”.

He also needs to promise to rescind all EPA regulations not specifically mandated by Congress, particularly those stifling the construction of refineries and power plants, including those fired by natural gas.

Steve Z on October 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Does the writer really think Romney will follow this script. All Romney has to do to win is show up with a pair of testicles and use them.

they lie on October 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

ITguy on October 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Nice catch…I bet you’re right.

I don’t think Romney is really under that much pressure. He needs to project dignity and quiet confidence, and he needs to refute Obama’s lies and half-truths. I think he can easily do this.

Remember, during the primaries, all of the ABR’s were ranting that the only thing Romney had going for him was that he “looked presidential”? It’s not much of a stretch to say that that is his most important goal tonight, and one that he comes by naturally.

Priscilla on October 3, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Yeah, I think that’s largely true. Plus, he is battle tested, and apparently Rob Portman really challenged him in their debate prep, so he should be primed and ready to go.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:21 PM

All Romney has to do to win is show up with a pair of testicles and use them.

they lie on October 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

ewwww….

equanimous on October 3, 2012 at 1:21 PM

If you’re expecting this debate to be some sort of cage match, or, more to the point, if that’s what you’d like it to be, you’re going to be disappointed.

This will be an old style debate with each candidate measuring the other in preparation for the next debate, with an eye toward crafting the tone, and perfecting the style, for the final debate.

I think that the series will be an exercise in graduated skill levels, culminating in a finely honed debate performance.

That being said, I think that Romney has the ability and the advantage over Obama in that Romney can actually think for himself and speak well at the same time, without the aid of a teleprompter or a written script.

With that in mind, it might be nice if someone would frisk Obama as he steps up to the podium to be certain that he isn’t using a concealed receiver to be coached on his answers from experts off stage.

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

All Romney has to do to win is show up with a pair of testicles and use them.

they lie on October 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Can he borrow some?

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

I don’t know the exact rules for conducting these debates, but I wonder if Lehrer will ask follow-on questions to any of Mitt’s answers to drag him in a direction, but not ask those same questions of Obama ‘for further clarification’.

People will also be looking to tomorrow’s MSM ‘analyses’ of Mitt’s answers (while ignoring Obama’s, of course). Those judgements will likely include that Mitt doesn’t care about the environment, the middle class, the Constitution, the rule of law, race relations, the plight of the poor–what-have-you.

Mitt may do well, and I hope he does to the point where even a casual observer can’t deny he pulled out a big win. But the MSM won’t let him get away with it.

Liam on October 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

With that in mind, it might be nice if someone would frisk Obama as he steps up to the podium to be certain that he isn’t using a concealed receiver to be coached on his answers from experts off stage.

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Heh. Nah, he’s got ‘let me be clear…I inherited…tax cuts for the wealthy…’ down pat by now.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:30 PM

OT: (and who could not use a break form debate analysis?) Did anyone hear Hew Hughit’s show yestiddy? One segment was with a guy who’s running the (R) campaign in Cuyahoga County who laid out some pretty amazing turnout numbers for that pivotal district as well as Ohio in general. Stuff like their being at 105-120% of their entire 2008 absentee (R) requests NOW, etc. It speaks to enthusiasm and sort of belies the turnout models that a lot of polls have been using.

..o.k., no back to your regularly scheduled program..

The War Planner on October 3, 2012 at 1:31 PM

What are the drinking rules for tonight’s domestic policy debate?

aunursa on October 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM

…if Mitt screws up in anyway…there are no rules…who ever gets sh!t faced drunk first…wins!

KOOLAID2 on October 3, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Opportunity for Romney to reassure seniors, who are already among his best voting bloc

As we watch, we should attempt to envision ourselves as a low-information voter with a high school degree. That is where Romney will win or lose tonight.

I think we are going to be pleasantly surprised at how well Mitt communicates the big picture, what is at stake, and how bad the next 4 years will be on the current trajectory.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:32 PM

The stories are already written. The headlines already set. The legacy media is not going to let a debate get in their way.

d1carter on October 3, 2012 at 1:33 PM

Romney needs to rebuke and/or mock the media “moderators” and find a pithy way to sum up the sweep of Obama’s awfulness and bad faith.

He won’t do either. He’ll muddle through, hold his own at best, and the debate will be viewed as a gabby draw.

rrpjr on October 3, 2012 at 1:34 PM

With that in mind, it might be nice if someone would frisk Obama as he steps up to the podium to be certain that he isn’t using a concealed receiver to be coached on his answers from experts off stage.

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Heh. Nah, he’s got ‘let me be clear…I inherited…tax cuts for the wealthy…’ down pat by now.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:30 PM

..you mean like this ear piece kerfluffle? Bring it!

The War Planner on October 3, 2012 at 1:34 PM

I totally agree that Romney needs to come off the “rich, elite” platform. I hope he wars a sweater vest and bow tie. The real problem is that Romney is a rich, intelligent, businessman and it’s going to be hard to shed that for the class of people who still haven’t made up their mind between Obama and Romney. Really, their intelligence level has to be pretty low.

The other thing Romney NEVER brings up but needs to is the JOBS Owe has exported – like the Finland $120,000 car. Because Bain will get brought up and pounded. He should also point out that his interest at Bain was BAIN, not the USA. He was CEO of Bain, not the President of the USA. CEO’s take care of the financial interests of their companies; Presidents take care of the financial and security (this brings Libya to the forefront)interests of the country. Then spin into a discussion in the difference between various jobs and knowing what one’s responsibilities (like meeting with foreign leaders instead of going on the Spew) are depending on the job they hold.

katablog.com on October 3, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Family first, Ed. I commend you.

bearpaw on October 3, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Debate preview: How Romney can win

I wonder just how much advice Romney has been getting this week on how to win the debate. I’ve heard everything from he has to soft sell so as not to appear too aggressive to swing voters to the idea he has to go thermo-nuclear on Obama. The only consistency seems to be that everybody agrees Al Gore’s charge across the stage was one of the most stupid things in debate history. Supposedly he did it so that everybody could see that he was the taller of the two.

Happy Nomad on October 3, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Mitt may do well, and I hope he does to the point where even a casual observer can’t deny he pulled out a big win. But the MSM won’t let him get away with it.

Liam on October 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Dunno. The hard left on MSNBC – I completely agree. But much of the MSM still wants the appearance of a contest, because it drives ratings. If Mitt has a really good night and Obama a demonstrably bad night, they may indeed be kinder to Mitt than we think (will last for about 24 hours.)

Moreoever, as noted previously, if the commentators call it a draw, then Romney won, hands down.

The MSM called the Carter-Reagan debate a “draw.” The American people saw it quite differently.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:37 PM

This is a great forum for back seat drivers this afternoon.

I don’t need to drive, but this is my wish. I would like Romney to use examples that the MSM doesn’t air, won’t put on the news, to give facts to the viewers of the debates. I would like him to clarify as much of the misinformation that Obama’s campaign pumps out every day, that he can, maybe even listing the ads and telling the viewers the corrections. I would also like him to tell Obama’s record the way we see it, not the way the MSM glosses it over.

Fleuries on October 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM

In case people were not aware, Obama answers the first question tonight.

But Mitt gets the last word – his closing statement ends the evening. Just like Reagan in 1980.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM

The announced topic is domestic policy

So do you suppose Romney is going to ask the rat-eared coward if he is still against building roads and briges in the suburbs?

Happy Nomad on October 3, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Would love to comment on the immigration thread….but I can’t because there is no comment box attached to the article!

TECH SUPPORT REQUIRED ON IMMIGRATION THREAD

*Waves frantically*

thatsafactjack on October 3, 2012 at 1:46 PM

low-information voters may be getting their first close look at Mitt Romney since the primary debates ended months ago — or perhaps ever.

They’re low-information voters. Duh. Why would you think they’ll watch anything that might affect that status, in significant numbers?

bofh on October 3, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Lower-information voters have to see Romney as something other than the Thurston Howell caricature that Team Obama has painted,

I swear….the only people pushing this meme are the msm….it just isn’t sticking.

I live is southern california for cryin’ out loud.

NOWHERE in this bluest of blue states is anybody I run into worried about Romney’s “Wealth” – the ever shrinking pool of conservatives out here are impressed by it and his obvious business acumen….the Libs out here are yammering about racism/ladyparts/abortion (if you have a lot of pigment in your skin and a “vaj”…this is your year).

I’m just not seeing this.

Tim_CA on October 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Romney better be ready to take on the other opponent and that’s Lehrer! The so-called moderator is going to be slinging questions from the left and trying to keep Romney to standards he won’t hold Obama to.
For those following,How to take on the Obama Enemy media: http://paratisiusa.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-open-letter-to-those-who-should-know.html?spref=tw

God Bless America!

paratisi on October 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM

OT: Push to ban football at a New Hampshire high school

I told you so.

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Does anyone know if the audience will be allowed to clap or cheer? I’m hoping not, as I suspect the Obama team will have packed the auditorium with sycophants.

changer1701 on October 3, 2012 at 1:55 PM

In case people were not aware, Obama answers the first question tonight.

But Mitt gets the last word – his closing statement ends the evening. Just like Reagan in 1980.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM

On the downside, Bark’s first question will be: “Mr. President who has managed our nation through the difficult times created by warmonger Bush, do you think that a super rich, cancer-spreading, women-hating racist like your ugly opponent there on stage can actually do anything right other than put people out of their jobs?”

Bishop on October 3, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Romney needs to ask the president why he wants another term. Obama obviously doesn’t like cleaning up prior administration’s messes, and, by all the evidence, is not good at cleaning up prior administration’s messes. So why does he want to do it some more? Does he even know how bad a mess he will inherit if he gets a second term.

Lily on October 3, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Romney has a lot he needs to accomplish tonight. I am confident he will come through. Go Mitt!

Jack_Burton on October 3, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Romney needs to rebuke and/or mock the media “moderators”

That’s the ticket, mocking the TV guys will really make him look presidential. \

Priscilla on October 3, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Fleuries on October 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Romney needs to rebuke and/or mock the media “moderators” and find a pithy way to sum up the sweep of Obama’s awfulness and bad faith.

rrpjr on October 3, 2012 at 1:34 PM

I’ll. call it a win for Mitt if he at least does something along those lines. These Cretans must be put on notice that their partisan advocacy is dangerous to the body politic and the average voter must be made more and more aware of their corruption of professional journalism.

Obama’s not the only one running against Mitt.

Cleombrotus on October 3, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Priscilla on October 3, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Not mocking, but definitely pointing to it in some fashion. Gingrich was good at it.

Why act as if your enemy’s not the one framing the debate?

Cleombrotus on October 3, 2012 at 2:04 PM

The threshold for the challenger in the first debate is minimal; the challenger wins by not being chased off the stage standing next to any president.

matthew8787 on October 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Which candidate will play “president”???

landlines on October 3, 2012 at 2:06 PM

All I’ve heard from both R&R is that their goals for the debates are to boldly offer CLEAR DISTINCTIONS between them and the O team.
I’m confident that, given the chance, they’ll succeed in doing that.
How that’s accomplished, we’ll just have to see … given a fair chance, etc.

pambi on October 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Here are the topics I’ll be holding my breath on when Mitt answers:
1. Obamacare/Romneycare
2. 47%
3. Immigration

Mitsouko on October 3, 2012 at 2:09 PM

I assumed the whole thing had been canceled.

faraway on October 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM

becareful what you ask for … the Iwon might do that anyway ….

conservative tarheel on October 3, 2012 at 2:13 PM

Here are the topics I’ll be holding my breath on when Mitt answers:
1. Obamacare/Romneycare
2. 47%
3. Immigration

Mitsouko on October 3, 2012 at 2:09 PM

could care less about #2 – but 1 and 3 are in my top 5 too.

Tim_CA on October 3, 2012 at 2:13 PM

Or, he can just quote Joe.

Slainte on October 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Absolutely. Joke Biteme’s statement about the middle class was a big shiny gift to Governor Romney. He will use it, probably in his opening statement.

slickwillie2001 on October 3, 2012 at 2:13 PM

For Romney: Whenever you hear the president say, “Let me be honest,” it means he’s going to make up whatever he says next.

STL_Vet on October 3, 2012 at 2:17 PM

He can’t win. The debate winner will be declared by the press in how they cover the debate. Anyone really think Romney will get a fair shake?

Rightyismighty on October 3, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Given that this went out in an email from “David Axelrod”, I’m inclined to think that the choice of date for the debate tonight was very deliberate.

If you hear mention of Obama’s anniversary tonight, it was planned. An attempt to get more “awwww…” sympathy from women.

ITguy on October 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Smart women will know right away that allowing the debate to be scheduled for today, means that Obama completely forgot that October 3rd was his anniversary when he agreed to the debate schedule.

If his anniversary was important to Obama, it would have been included on a list given to his Chief of Staff at the beginning of the year of dates to keep blocked off for important family obligations.

If we see Michelle scowling in the audience tonight, we will know why.

wren on October 3, 2012 at 2:35 PM

From what I’ve read in the media, Mitt’s mission tonight is:

Be aggressive, yet likeable;
Be intellectual, yet down to earth and folksy;
Be knowledgeable, yet non-assuming;
Be presidential, yet come across as a regular guy.

If he can do all that at the same time, he should have no problem.

TarheelBen on October 3, 2012 at 2:38 PM

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