Obama's poker tells

The president will allegedly be subject to time limits on Wednesday night, but his contempt for most such rules almost guarantees he will blow through every limit and dare the moderator or Mitt Romney to challenge him.

If either does, we will be treated to “tell No. 4,” the president’s feigned outrage that anyone would interrupt or question him. When this happens, his countenance displays a disapproving sneer and his voice clouds with displeasure. It is practiced. It is also profoundly anti-democratic and arrogant, and if he plays this card on this stage, it will backfire.

Watch as well for nonresponsive self-pity, verbal essays on how difficult it was when he took over and how hard he has been working. Self-pity and self-regard are not designed to endear him to the unemployed or even the economically fragile, so he will be coached to try to avoid displaying his sense of outrage at being thought a failure or “in over his head,” but the president’s sense of his own immensity is so great as to blow past such base political calculations.