2nd Presidential Debate Preview
October 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Today the second Presidential debate will be held at Hofstra University in New York. It will be a townhall setting, with undecided voters asking questions of the candidates. Why the Debate Commission decided to hold a townhall debate in New York, much less Long Island, is beyond me. Couldn’t those guys find an auditorium available in Iowa, Ohio, Virginia or Florida so that people in actual swing states could ask questions of the candidates? Instead of being relevant, the Debate Commission is heading to a Democrat stronghold where undecided voters are irrelevant as Republicans. It all goes together with a moderator, Candy Crowley, who called the Romney-Ryan ticket a disaster.
President Obama’s team has vowed he will be more aggressive at the debate tonight. They clearly believe that his problem during the first debate was being overly polite. It couldn’t possibly been the fact that Obama doesn’t have much of a record to run on or the fact that Obama isn’t a particularly gifted speaker off prompter. So Obama is going to go aggressive. What that means for him remains to be seen. We saw what it was for Joe Biden, who was so over the top that his otherwise stronger policy performance was lost in a sea of smirks, laughter and malarkey. Obama has quite a range between his polite, boring performance in the first debate and Biden’s overly aggressive absurdity in the VP debate.
The format may hurt Obama’s ability to be aggressive. There isn’t going to be a ton of back and forth like there was in the first debate. The nature of a townhall just doesn’t allow for that. Even if it did, it’s one thing to be aggressive before a moderator but it’s another thing to pull such a stunt in front of a voter with a presumably legitimate concern and question. Most voters don’t want to be told to their face that the other guy is a liar. They want to hear what the candidate believes himself, not necessarily his spin on what his opponent believes. Voters watching the debate put themselves in the shoes of the person asking the question, thus it requires the candidates to stay on point concerning their own plans.
Romney needs to stay the course. He needs to remain aggressive but polite. He’s surprisingly capable of connecting with voters one on one. Whether that will come across tonight via this debate format remains to be seen. He has to at least make an effort at that because Obama can turn on the charm if he has to. The problem for Obama in a townhall is that he gets defensive and bitter whenever someone asks a tough question of him. If he gets that angry look on his face that we’ve all seen when someone asks a tough question tonight, that hurts him. Romney doesn’t pull that stunt but he sometimes keeps a distance between himself and everyone else. If he can get past that and actually connect, which he’s capable of, Romney will be in fine shape.
Obama is sure to give a better performance tonight than he did two weeks ago. Having exceeded expectations, he’ll be declared the winner by the media. Whether that translates into a victory with voters remains to be seen. A tie for Obama will completely stop the Romney momentum. It would allow the Obama campaign to completely regroup and it would allow them to prepare for the final debate as a winner take all in a format that is better suited to a more aggressive style. Romney now has expectations, if he doesn’t live up to them and if Obama exceeds his then Obama will win. Romney though is likely to give a similar performance as the first debate. As such, I predict a tie.