What Romney Needs To Do In The Upcoming Debates
In each of these three debates, Governor Romney first and foremost needs to effectively demonstrate to the American people that he has the ability to serve as a competent Commander-in-Chief. This is essential, because Governor Romney has looked anything but presidential of late, and his position in the polls has been in freefall ever since the Democratic National Convention.
The latest Gallup poll currently shows President Obama opening up a five-point lead over Governor Romney. In addition, the President holds relatively comfortable leads in virtually every single swing state that Governor Romney needs to win in order to secure the necessary 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. In fact, the poll numbers are strikingly similar to where they were at this point four years ago, when President Obama secured his election in a virtual landslide over Arizona Senator John McCain.
Romney’s fortunes have begun to take a turn for the worse since his campaign released a premature and irresponsible statement accusing President Obama of sympathizing with the terrorists behind the attack at the American embassy in Libya. Pundits on both sides of the aisle criticized Romney for attempting to score cheap political points just hours after a national tragedy had unfolded.
Additionally, just days later, a viral video was released that showed Romney dismissing 47 percent of the American population as freeloaders who are dependent on the government and inconsequential to him because they would never vote Republican. Much to the dismay of the Romney campaign, this video loaned credence to Obama supporters who had been contending for months that Romney was simply an agent of the superrich, and not a man running to represent all of America. While such gaffes usually do not determine the eventual outcome of elections, these two consecutive mistakes by Governor Romney have definitely stalled his campaign.
The prevailing feeling among Republicans is that a once-golden opportunity to unseat an incumbent Democratic President has turned into a likely lost cause. Governor Romney has never enjoyed a consistent lead in the polls, even after the Republican National Convention. The selection of Representative Paul Ryan was billed as a game-changer that would turn the campaign into a referendum on the issue of Medicare, yet Ryan has played a relatively minimal role in the campaign since his addition to the ticket.
Also working against Governor Romney is the fact that most Americans just like President Obama better. Romney has struggled against the perception that he is an out-of-touch robber baron who made a fortune by shipping jobs overseas to China. The Obama campaign chose to hit Romney with this characterization early and often, and the strategy is beginning to pay enormous dividends. Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe was so damaging particularly because it seemed to confirm the worst fears about him that Americans already possessed.
Months ago, when it seemed that Governor Romney still had a significant chance of victory in November, the central issue in the campaign was the economy. The economy is virtually the only issue that Americans trust Romney to handle over President Obama, but Governor Romney has done an abysmal job of framing the campaign around the economy, because of his utter failure to present a clear plan for recovery. The lack of specificity within the Romney campaign has become almost comical, with Paul Ryan recently ducking a question about Governor Romney’s tax plan by stating that it is too complicated to explain.
In all fairness, President Obama has hardly painted a picture regarding what he would do in a potential second term. However, the President has the luxury of being an incumbent with a well-established record. Whether one approves or disapproves of President Obama’s accomplishments, the fact is that he at least has a record to run with. In contrast, Governor Romney has a responsibility as the challenger to clearly delineate what specifically he would do differently from what President Obama has done. Because Romney has failed to do this, voters lack compelling reasons to give him their votes.
For months, the Obama campaign, with limited results, attempted to deflect the conversation away from the economy by attacking Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Just as the attacks were beginning to achieve marginal success, Romney gifted the President with his two aforementioned gaffes. The result of this is a string of months dominated by President Obama’s campaign with little talk of the economy.
If Governor Romney wants to get his campaign back on track, then he absolutely needs to deliver the performance of a lifetime in each of the three upcoming debates. President Obama is no doubt a better speaker, but Romney has the advantage of having participated in over 20 debates against his Republican rivals during the primaries. President Obama will also likely being playing it safe in the debates, so Romney does not have to worry about contending with anything unexpected.
Most debates end in a de-facto tie, with supporters of each candidate believing that their favorite has won. But Mitt Romney cannot afford a tie of any sort with President Obama. Romney is in the ropes and needs a clean punch against the President in order to regain some badly needed momentum. The only way that Romney can do this is to finally steer the conversation back to the economy. Romney needs to show the American public that there is more to his economic policy than a plan to lower taxes for the richest Americans. In a sense, he needs to re-introduce himself to the American public and start over from square one. The Presidential debates represent perhaps Governor Romney’s last chance to do this.