“I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite.” – President Barack Obama
Tonight President Barack Obama and Governor Willard “Mitt Romney” will square off in the 2nd of three debates. After President Obama’s listless performance in the first debate many are expecting a more energized and combative performance tonight. Romney has seen his poll numbers improve since the first debate and is now polling even with or slightly above President Obama in national and swing state polls. The stakes are big for both men tonight and this debate could very well tip the election for President Obama or Romney.
Tonight’s debate format will be different from the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate. Tonight’s debate is a Town Hall format with questions for the candidates coming from audience members who are undecided voters (chosen by Gallop). The questions to be asked were approved by the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, and the candidates will have two minutes to answer each question along with a one minute rebuttal. Crowley will be allowed to ask follow-up questions of the candidates. Crowley is a veteran political reporter and I expect her to ask tough follow-up questions. Tonight’s debate will take place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The Debate will be 90 minutes starting at 9 P.M. Eastern with Romney taking the first question and Obama taking the second, there will be no closing statements.
10 days ago the post-mortems were being written for the Romney campaign. The President was up nationally and in many swing states and the pressure was on Romney to deliver a strong debate performance, and he did. Romney used the first debate to get back into the game and he will try to use tonight’s debate to build upon his recent momentum. Romney has to come across as more warm and personable. The Obama campaign has spent millions of dollars painting Romney as an out-of-touch businessman who doesn’t care about middle or working class Americans and that perception of Romney persisted up until the last debate. After last week’s debate Romney’s favorable begin to improve and he has the opportunity to build on that tonight. Romney’s main objective tonight is to come off as likeable and for the middle-class, though his policies are not friendly to the middle class. Romney will most likely avoid specifics and try to connect by telling heartwarming stories of his upbringing and from people he met on the campaign trail. Romney has to present himself as an acceptable/likeable alternative if he is to be successful in tonight’s debate.
Romney keys for victory:
1) Present himself as a champion for the middle class
2) Avoid making any gaffes (primarily describing his policies)
3) Effectively criticize the President’s policies
Supporters of President Obama have been down this road before with him. While running for president in 2008 he often didn’t deliver in the primary debates. During a break during one Democratic debate disgraced Senator John Edwards famously told him to “wake up”! Obama does not care for debates and it showed in the last one, but if he wants to continue his presidency he must use tonight’s debate to make an convincing case for a second Obama term. The case isn’t hard to make. Obama saved the U.S. economy from a depression, saved the automobile industry, provided healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans, withdrew troops out of Iraq and has begun withdrawing troops out of Afghanistan, allowed openly gay men and women to serve openly in the military, allowed children of illegal immigrants to seek citizenship, enacted the strictest financial regulations since the great depression, cut taxes for millions of Americans, and signed a bill granting equal pay to women. Obama has a good record to stand on; he must convince Americans that now is not the time to turn back now.
Obama’s last debate performance was so poor that just showing up tonight will be a minor victory for him. President Obama must make his case for re-election before the country with conviction and passion, show the middle and working class that he and his policies will continue to serve them and call Romney out on his hakd-truths. Obama has to make a strong case against Romney and the policies of the Republican Party he cannot let Romney off the hook in tonight’s debate. The format proposes some pitfalls, President Obama can’t be too aggressive in front of a room of undecided voters, but with strength and conviction he must stand up for himself, his policies, and the working class if he is to be victorious tonight and in three weeks on election day.
Obama keys for victory:
1) Passionately describe why & how his policies/direction is right for America
2) Make a clear distinction (strongly) between his policies and Romney’s
3) Reassure working class Americans he will fight for them
Tonight’s debate is critical because President Obama and Mitt Romney are offering two very different views for America. One is promoting civic collectivism where we all sacrifice and rise together while the other is promoting rugged individualism where there are winners and losers. The losers in this case are the 47% of Americans who according to Romney are dependent on government for food, housing, and healthcare; his policies would do nothing to help half the country. At the end of tonight’s debate I think you will start to get a sense of which version of America you will be living in over the next four years.