President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney face off for their second debate on Tuesday, and the stakes could not be higher. Many political scientists claim that debates are not game changers in a campaign, but a thrashing on the level of this year’s first Presidential debate is unprecedented. Gallup’s debate reaction poll on October 5th found that 72% of all debate viewers believed that Romney did a better job than Obama in the first debate. Not only is the loss embarrassing for President Obama and his supporters, but it has given Romney’s campaign the spark it needed. Romney now leads nationwide according to Gallup and Rasmussen. Romney can take a commanding lead in this campaign with another dominating performance Tuesday night. If Romney stays steady with his attacks, keeps President Obama on the defensive, and avoids being perceived as a bully, than Romney will come out on top again. It may be cliché, but it’s also true: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Obama campaign needs to stunt the momentum of the Romney camp, and the perfect opportunity is Tuesday’s debate. Obama’s game plan is more complex. It must include three things: a more passionate performance, a simplified approach to answers, and the confidence to attack Romney on his policies.
Let’s face it, Barack Obama looked like a diabetic with low blood sugar at the last debate. Whether it was the altitude in Denver (as Al Gore claimed), or looking ahead to his anniversary night with Michelle, we’ll never know. One thing is for sure though: Obama must be more passionate in order to win this debate. President Obama does have a difficult tightrope to walk, though. Anyone who watched the Vice Presidential debate noticed Biden’s constant chuckling. Joe Biden definitely invigorated the Democratic base with his aggressive performance. Yet some undecided voters were turned off by Uncle Joe’s seemingly condescending body language. President Obama must have his energy levels somewhere between a state of catatonic shock and looking like he just got nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office. If he can walk that line, President Obama will be much better off in New York than he was in Denver.
The American public is not prone to long attention spans at Presidential debates. Our voting populace is more interested in a zinger that becomes a sound byte than a long-winded answer. Especially since this is a town hall debate, Professor Obama must answer in tweets rather than term papers. Undecided voters and regular Americans feel more engaged when answers are tailored toward a personal story. Bill Clinton was one of the most personally engaging politicians ever, and that is why he is still admired by much of the population. This is the area in which President Obama can illuminate a difference between Romney and himself. While the first debate turned into a battle of talking points, quick thinking and empathetic answers will decide this one. President Obama’s second challenge is to keep his answers concise, clever, and caring.
Finally, Obama cannot shy away from a fight. While the President tried to call Romney out on some policies, his attacks fell flat. As a result, Romney had the benefit of being on offense the entire night. President Obama must have used his preparation to not only defend his policies more clearly, but to attack Romney’s tax plan, Medicare voucher program, and healthcare plan strongly. Obama can’t be afraid to call Romney out on his misleading statements, like the $716 billion dollar “cut” from Medicare.
Tuesday night’s importance for President Obama cannot be overstated. While Obama cannot win the election Tuesday night, another embarrassment at the hands of Mitt Romney will go a long way towards losing the election. Football coaches take the time between games to identify their team’s weaknesses and work to fix them before the next game. President Obama’s team must have identified the flaws in Denver and fixed them…or else it could be game over.
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