Round 2: Obama, Romney to square off tonight
President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will tonight square off for the second time. This debate, hosted by Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York and moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley, who has been a source of concern for both campaigns, will be a townhall setting, where theoretically on-the-fence voters will be able to ask Obama and Romney questions about domestic and foreign policy.
Since the last debate, Obama has seen his numbers drop. Romney has managed to show momentum in some swing states, but he hasn’t been able to best Obama in Ohio or Virginia, two essential states to the GOP ticket. As of this morning, the Electoral College shows Obama up, 294-244.
Many Republicans believe that the pressure is on Obama, who didn’t do well at the last debate, to put in a good performance. Obama says he was “too polite” in the last debate, but will be “firm” this time and his campaign has already indicated that Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and his tax plan proposal will come up. For his part, Romney, who has seen a rise in support from women voters, is expected to hit Obama on the state of the economy, including broken promises to rein in the the national debt and the runaway budget deficit, which has surpassed $1 trillion for the fourth consecutive year.
While he does need to do well, a new poll from Pew Research shows that expectations for Obama have dropped substantially. However, the poll shows that expectations, especially among independent voters, have risen for Romney, meaning that the pressure to maintain momentum is very much a factor.
On foreign policy, Romney has to hit Obama hard on Libya, which has been a disaster for the White House. But Romney has to do without being perceived as playing politics on the issue, which is the spin on that is coming from Obama’s campaign surrogates. Romney will also be put in the tough position of defending his terrible approach to China (and it is terrible), which Obama plans to bring up. But given the populist tone of voters, this may backfire on Obama, who, oddly enough, ran on similar rhetoric just four years ago.
Romney has to avoid that “gotcha” moment, whether it’s on his tax plan or Bain Capital, and he has to keep making Obama explain his short-comings on the economy. Romney also has to convincingly explain to voters why Obama’s “balanced” approach is neither balanced, nor a serious plan for tackling the budget deficit.
There is no getting around it, Romney has to show up tonight and keep Obama on defense if he wants to close the gap in Ohio and Virginia as well as maintain or build on small leads in Colorado and Florida.