Tonight, Governor Romney gets his last legitimate chance to reverse the Obama momentum of this election.  Obviously, Romney’s best shot will come if Obama can implode or utter a cringe-inducing gaffe of Rick Perry proportions.  But that isn’t likely to happen. 

To win this debate decisively, thus bypassing the spin room verdicts, Romney must focus on both an offensive and defensive strategy in tandem to win hands down.  One or the other will not deliver the kind of win Romney needs to stop the bleeding and reverse the momentum of this race that is in danger of being blown wide open. 

Obama will come out swinging.  He will talk about fair shares, the location of Romney’s bank accounts, the eerie similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare along with Romney’s sad record on jobs in Massachusetts.  I have no doubt that Romney has some canned zingers to rebuke the President’s jackass assertions of “a new economic patriotism” or “you didn’t build that” rhetoric.  Luckily for Romney, this election isn’t about his record, it’s about Obama.  Romney has the advantage, if he is willing to take it, to turn things back on Obama in a way that Obama cannot.  Obama may be able to talk about Massachusetts policies a bit, but largely, the American people want to hear a defense from Obama for his theory of the case.  If Romney is strong, then Obama’s argument that “but it could’ve been worse” isn’t going to cut it.  What Romney must do is go after Obama’s throat, passionately egging him on.

Why didn’t Obama’s stimulus plan stop the bleeding?  How does he plan to overcome his impotence in working with House Republicans to pass anything?  Why is he gutting Medicare to fund Obamacare?  Isn’t his record a one-term proposition?  Should we be concerned that our embassy was decimated on 9/11?  Are we in a double-dip recession?  What can Obama now do that he didn’t do with his super majority?    

A frustrated Obama is as much of an unpredictable liability as a frazzled Romney.  We know that Romney makes stupid statements when challenged.  But we also know that Obama is extremely arrogant, even by presidential standards.  We know that he has an attitude that he showed to House Republicans last year that would not play well on television.  Romney has to keep Obama defensive, defensive, defensive. 

And he has to keep it up throughout the entire debate.  If he blows through healthcare, deficit spending and tax raises in the first hour, Romney must not give Obama the ability to come at Romney in hour two.  Romney needs to come back at Obama with Cap-and-trade, Stimulus, leaving Hispanics out to dry, death panels – whatever it takes.

Romney has to uncover Obama’s “five point plan” as a five point wish list.  100k new math and science teachers, getting off foreign oil, reducing the deficit…these are wishes that Obama makes while ignoring the huge spending cliff his healthcare plan is taking us over, the reality of oil in America and the fact that a shortage of teachers isn’t America’s education problem.  Will Romney make him explain? 

On offense, Romney has to explain his plan.  I can’t speak to Romney’s plan because I don’t know it and it isn’t easily accessible on his website.  He has to remind us what it is (Energy independence, school choice, etc.).  He must then tell us how he is going to get there and distinguish that from Obama who hasn’t given us a path for his goals. 

Romney is elevated when onstage with POTUS.  He now needs to make good use of that boost by showing Obama to be the bankrupt candidate that he is.  Romney can’t take breaks during the debate.  He can’t settle.  He must be uncompromising.  The next four years depend on it.  Every question should have a quick but wonky answer followed by a highlighting of Obama’s weaknesses. 

In 2008, Obama was the professor debating a desperate kid with no understanding of economic matters.  In 2012, Romney must prove that Obama doesn’t know as much as he pretends and that it is Mitt that understands how to get houses selling again, banks investing again and businesses hiring again.  This is the last time Romney can shake things up without the assistance of outside factors.  He has to make good use of it.