Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Both Candidates Need To Do in Tonight's Debate

Nate Silver has, I believe, the best take on where we are at this stage of the campaign. Using a football analogy, we have been in the fourth quarter ever since the conventions.  Both candidates have had their bumps and we are now approaching the two-minute warning.

Barack Obama is ahead both in the national polls and in the swing states needed to win the all-important electoral college.  Mitt Romney is trailing and desperately needs to close the gap.  Depending on your point of view, the margin is either a field goal or a touchdown.

Mitt Romney has had two major obstacles throughout this campaign.  One has, ironically, been an inability to convince the electorate that he would do a better job managing what has become for many a weak recovery.  Imagine the out-party candidate with an economy like this not being able to make a convincing case for change?  But the other obstacle is even more damaging.  On a personal level, voters just aren't warming to either Romney or his running mate, Paul Ryan.  The more they find out about this tandem the less they seem to like them.

Conversely, most voters like Obama.  While they aren't satisfied with the direction the economy is headed, they still think Obama would be a better steward of it.  Trust will be a huge factor in this election and right now, the President has a leg up on his challenger.

With that in mind, Romney has no choice but to "go deep," as it were.  He has to go for the political equivalent of a Hail Mary.  Up until this point he has been unable to get above 45 or 46 percent in the polls.  It is highly unlikely he will solve that problem tonight.  What he has to do is force an error from Obama.  By going deep, he will attempt to tie the game by knocking down Obama a notch or two. If he can tie the score anything's possible.  So look for him to be aggressive and attempt to bait the President into a tit for tat back and forth exchange.

Obama's job is a lot simpler.  Hold onto the ball.  Every football coach will tell you turnovers cost games.  When you have a lead, regardless of how large, the other team can't win if you don't give them the chance.  Obama must refrain from taking Romney's bait.  While he can't afford to go into prevent defense mode, he can't get sloppy either.  The best way Obama can win is by not letting Romney pull him down to his level.  While he does have to challenge Romney on the issues, he needs to keep control of the tempo.  For years, most of us have complained about the ice water that appears to flow through Obama's veins.  He will need every ounce of that ice water tonight.

The simple truth is that Obama does NOT need to win this debate; Romney does.  If the President remembers that, all should go well for him tonight.  If he forgets and allows Romney to level the playing field, it's anybody's game.

No comments: