Among the reasons why substance could well trump style Wednesday night:
* Obama is a cautious debater. This was true even during the primary fight when then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the frontrunner for the Democratic nod. Obama would occasionally take the fight to Clinton but was far more willing to let former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards do the heavy lifting on that front. Obama’s caution was even more evident during the general election debates when he really played a sort of ball control offense — sports metaphor times TWO! — and tried to make as little news as possible, knowing he was winning. There’s little reason to believe — either in his public statements or the private readouts from his debate prep — that Obama will break with that general philosophy on Wednesday night.
* Romney isn’t a risk taker — and doesn’t need to be. For all the coverage last week that the race was over unless Romney changed the game — worst. cliche. ever. — on Wednesday night, there’s a slew of national polls already out this week that suggest Romney is well within striking distance of Obama. Combine that new reality with Romney’s play-it-safe nature and there’s little reason to believe that the former Massachusetts governor comes out swinging for the fences — one too many sports metaphors? — on Wednesday night. It’s not who he is and he has shown in the past that when he tries to break character, it doesn’t work out so well. ($10,000 bet, anyone?)