Gear Up! It's Debate Night!

Just in case you, like me, are afraid tonight will be the same ol’ show we’ve seen the last two rounds, here’s a little something to get you energized for tonight — a behind-the-scenes sneak peek with Bret Baier:

Best news of the video: Not only will a dream team of moderators host the debate (Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly), but they’ll also be taking outside questions. We saw that the CNN/Tea Party Express debate format generated some unlikely-to-otherwise-be-asked inquiries, and it seems the format for tonight’s debate might do the same. As a result, could it be we just might hear a candidate actually mention the phrase “Fast and Furious”? A few other words the GOP hopefuls might want to toss into their talk: Solyndra, LightSquared, CLASS Act, etc.

Michele Bachmann’s brave mention of Merck in the last debate and Mitt Romney’s recent e-mail castigating Rick Perry as “Governor SubZero” are impressive zingers, no doubt, but the time for Perry pile-ons is past. Not because Perry doesn’t need to learn to deflect attacks and not because he doesn’t need to learn to sling them (on both counts, he desperately does!), but because now is a prime time for the Republican candidates to truly weaken the reelection effort Obama has begun in earnest. Nothing clouds a campaign like a prepped-for-punch-lines scandal or two.

But at the same time that the candidates need to hit the president where it hurts, they also need to do what the president conspicuously has not done lately. They need to appeal to Americans’ pride, instead of Americans’ class envy. Some positive pep talk about the American entrepreneurial spirit, irrepressible work ethic and whole-hearted embrace of freedom would be much appreciated. Remind us that we don’t want to tax millionaires and billionaires; we want to be millionaires and billionaires — or, if we don’t, we want to live humbly in peace, unperturbed by government intrusion into every last aspect of our lives. Remind us that we don’t want handouts; we want a chance to earn success, to pursue happiness with every ounce of energy, creativity and discipline we’ve got. Remind us that we will find solutions not in the government, but in ourselves. The American people are starved for that message.

Conservatives have begun to rest comfortably in the president’s low approval numbers, but widespread disapproval of the president will hardly help the Republican candidate if that candidate’s approval numbers are also low. What turns voters out on Election Day? Disapproval of the incumbent might keep a few folks home. If it’s strong enough, as we saw in 2010, it might send a few more folks to vote for the opposite candidate. But it’ll hardly turn voters out in the same numbers that enthusiasm and the actual desire to see a candidate assume the presidency would. It’s time for the GOP candidates to stop playing small ball and start proving themselves presidential. Just be themselves. If one of those candidates on the stage is the next president of the United States, the American people will see it. With a few disastrous exceptions, we’ve shown ourselves to have a talent for picking able leaders. We’ll do it again.