This is it.
After more than a year of rough, grueling GOP presidential primary battles where Gov. Romney was “always but never” the frontrunner, followed by a presidential campaign season in which Team Obama has tried to paint Mitt Romney as an unholy amalgamation of a Terminator robot and Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we sit three weeks from election night with the RCP average of polls showing a tie between Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney literally to the tenth decimal point, each at 47.3%. Every national and battleground poll has shown Romney gain considerable ground since he unquestionably dominated the first presidential debate.
Tonight, the pressure is on Pres. Obama to reverse the poll trends, because if he fails, this race is likely over. If Romney is judged the winner of tonight’s debate by the tens of millions of people who will tune in, as he was in the last debate, then Pres. Obama is toast. Romney holds all of the momentum at this point, and if the president can’t win tonight, and do so decisively, then that momentum continues. Romney also has a tough challenge tonight, and that’s to win convincingly enough that the media cannot deny it. He cannot make the same mistake that Pres. Obama made in the last debate, which is to sit back and play defense.
Romney will have to stay on the attack, going after both the President’s record and lack of a distinct plan for the next four years, while defending against the punches that Obama will no doubt be throwing tonight. He needs to press the president to give his plan for a second term, with details. So far, this is something that president has clearly not done, other than to say he’ll raise taxes on the rich and hire more teachers. He needs to hammer the president on the Libya scandal. He needs to be both professional and passionate, as he was in the first debate, while being prosecutorial in his attacks on the president.
Pres. Obama will have to do all things he didn’t do in the last debate. He’ll have to attack Romney on the personal issues that his base wants to see, like the 47% comments, etc. He’ll also have to show some passion, which he has some difficulty with when answering questions in a less than completely friendly environment. He’s also going to have to defend his record against actual voters, who can be very direct if they aren’t satisfied, so it will be interesting to see if he’s challenged by an audience member, and how he responds.
The outcome of this debate could be the pivotal moment in this election for either side. A win for Obama tonight could at least halt, if not reverse, the trend in the polls against him. Another win for Romney tonight could very well put this election away for him.
We’ll know for sure soon enough.