I’ve been asked by my sons’ scoutmaster to watch tomorrow night’s debate with my 11-year-old sons and the rest of the Boy Scout troop and provide my expert advice. Should be fun, but I’m on pins and needles, as I’m more anxious about tomorrow night than any other night in the campaign.
Tomorrow night is the only night Romney can lose this thing.
All but the most diehard partisans now recognize that this race has slipped away from the president, and that Joe Biden’s toothy meltdown sent thrills up MSNBC legs but didn’t stop the slide. Barring some cataclysmic event, the Romney momentum will continue to build and the Romney landslide will proceed as scheduled.
Tomorrow, however, could be that cataclysmic event.
It probably won’t be, but that makes it worse. When things are going this well, I always get nervous. All signs point to another Romney victory tomorrow, which makes me counterintuitively think that perhaps Romney and company might be getting cocky. But, that said, let me tell you why they have reason to be cocky.
Romney went into the first debate with expectations in the cellar and a media waiting to call it for the prez before anyone said a word. Romney was far better than expected; Obama was far worse. So what are the expectations for this next debate? Hard to tell. It’s kinda weird.
First off, everyone expects Obama to do a lot better. But how does he accomplish that, exactly?
The president himself chalks up his tumble in Round 1 to his being too “polite.” If that’s really what he’s thinking, then he’s setting himself up for failure. Town halls are a far more difficult venue in which to spew bile the way Biden did while sitting across the table from his opponent. And angry, shrill, whiny Obama isn’t going to play well with moderates and independents, although he may keep Rachel Maddow from intentionally defenestrating herself. His problem in Round 1 wasn’t that he was too friendly; it was that he had no defense for the indefensible. And since Round 1, Benghazi has morphed into a full-fledged disaster for the president, and attempts to blame it all on Romney are pathetically feeble. His record stinks, and he’s not going to better defend it if all he does is amp up the nastiness.
The “liar. liar, pants on fire” approach doesn’t work well when the guy you’re accusing can calmly and confidently correct you. And, again, Benghazi has been a parade of lies that has been marching into the living rooms of America for the past month. So if Obama just aims for Romney’s non-flaming trousers in an attempt to roast rhetorical marshmallows on them, he’s going to lose.
Expectations for Romney are skewed, too. The message from the first debate should have been that this guy is not to be trifled with, which would have raised expectations sky high for him this time around. But most lefties refuse to acknowledge that, because that would require them to recognize that Romney is not, in fact, the love (hate?) child of Thurston Howell and the devil himself.
So instead, they insist Romney won by means of Satanic interference, and that it was his brazen dishonesty coupled with Obama’s ineffectuality that won the day for him. So they discount Romney’s competence even as it stares them in the face. In addition, they maintain that the town hall format is ill-suited to Romney’s style, when Romney has actually been holding successful town hall events all year long. This also ignores a harsh reality that no one seems to notice; the prickly, aloof, out-of-touch candidate in this race is not Mitt Romney, but Barack Obama. Where are the indications that he’s warm and cuddly? He’s used to being worshiped, not challenged.
All that considered, tomorrow looks like another good night for Romney, perhaps one good enough for him to put this whole thing to bed.
So you can see why I’m worried, can’t you?