1. Romney has a stellar first debate, which galvanizes his campaign and allows late-breaking independents to finally see the man that Ann Romney so loves dearly. Likelihood: 60 percent. Every Romney route to victory has to include a great first debate, because the first debates tend to matter the most, and because Romney will have a relatively unfiltered opportunity to try to make his case, probably his last. Debate 1 is about domestic policy, and the economy is lackluster. If ever there was a time to step up and force Barack Obama to explain to the American people just what he would do to create jobs — if ever there was an opportunity to refocus the campaign back onto the jobs issue — it’s on October 3 at the University of Denver. No doubt Romney will be prepared. Jim Lehrer, the moderator, is not going to throw anything Romney’s way that he hasn’t already anticipated.
2. Romney has a human moment. Likelihood: 40 percent. Yes, I know he is a human being, and I’m one of those reporters who has seen him when the camera is off and I can vouch for the fact that he isn’t weird and stilted. But he is so cautious on the campaign trail, so full of anxious energy, that even his scripted soft moments come off as somewhat silly. So he needs someone to give him a bear-hug, or to shed a genuine tear, or to tell a dirty joke — something entirely spontaneous that expands the comfort zone. From the start, the Obama campaign has tried to portray Romney as too darn unusual to be the president, and that strategy has worked. Clint Eastwood’s talking chair routine is not going to cut it. You can hear my eyes roll in their sockets as I type words like “humanizing moment,” but the incumbent here is much more of a fully formed character than the challenger, and for people who haven’t made up their minds, that matters.