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Guest Dispatch: Presidential Debates, What’s Next

Our latest Guest Dispatch comes from Arthur Freyre, an attorney and conservative political activist in Miami, Florida.

The Remaining Presidential Debates, What’s Next

By Arthur Freyre, Esq.

It is estimated that over 60 million people watched the last Wednesday’s Presidential debate. To put that number in perspective, 122 million people voted in the 2008 Presidential election. Romney’s performance has surprised many people. What people saw was not the caricature that was the subject of numerous campaign commercials-the cruel businessman or out of touch millionaire. They saw an authentic individual who would not accept the lies from the other side. He forced the President to defend his position. The fact that the President did not defend his position or his record well in that debate is a different story.

It’s Fall. It is football season. So I am going to wear my analysts’ hat and give you some things to anticipate in the remaining debates. Wednesday was the first quarter and, to paraphrase  Charles Krauthammer, Romney had at least two touchdown drives and a field goal. Obama’s drives were all punts.

Vice-Presidential Debate, Second Quarter: This debate should be interesting. The key here is momentum. Romney was aggressive in getting his points across. He countered the President’s points. And Romney made his point across reaching out to the independents and the undecided.

The key for Paul Ryan is to keep the momentum that Romney built last Wednesday. This is important since the next debate between Romney and Obama will be on October 16th. If Ryan cannot keep that momentum, then people will forget Romney’s first debate performance. Ryan is similar to Romney. Ryan can grasp policy issues well and can explain them also. If Ryan can do this, it will help Romney with keeping the momentum.

For Obama, Biden has to steal that momentum. He has to force Ryan to either make a mistake or appear to be not fit for leadership. As Jim Geraghty reported in his Campaign blog, it is anticipated that Biden will be in attack dog mode.

If team Obama goes into attack mode, they run the risk of appearing either arrogant or desperate. Such a perception will turn off the undecided or independents. Unfortunately, Biden is not well known for his policy acumen. The Vice President, gaffe prone, could say things that will embarrass the campaign. Two recent examples: Middle Class buried the last four years; and,  we want to increase your taxes by a trillion dollars.

If Biden is able to perform half way decently, expect the media to report that Obama is gaining some of that lost momentum.

Romney v. Obama, Third Quarter: The sequel. Romney will be facing a more focused Obama. Depending on the outcome of the Vice-Presidential debate, the question is how much momentum does Romney still have? The format is a town hall meeting. Instead of a moderator asking questions, you have multiple people asking a variety of questions. The topics are expected to be domestic policy and foreign policy. Since you have multiple people asking questions, expect some questions on jobs and the economy. But do expect more questions on the social issues such as abortion, “war on women”, “47%”, “gay marriage”, and a little bit on healthcare. How does the candidate interact with the questioner? That will be the key to look out for in this quarter.

In prior presidential face offs, some of the recent debating blunders were in the town hall format. For instance, when debating Bill Clinton in 1992, former President George H.W. Bush was caught looking at his watch. This gave the impression of being either annoyed or bored. Another example was Al Gore standing and blocking George W. Bush as Bush was answering a question. Vice President Gore’s action was off putting to many voters.

The key for Romney in this format is to not only explain the facts well, but how he interacts with others. Romney’s background as a leader in his church will help him. In the first debate, the people saw Romney as the CEO. Here, the people need to see Romney in his church leadership role, as the shepherd, a position that requires a heart of compassion, one who listens with his ears but with his eyes. If Romney comes in as the CEO in this debate, do not be surprised if the Democratic caricatures of Romney make a comeback in the media.

As for Obama, this debate format will be more helpful. It will play to one of his strengths, that he can connect with a wide range of people. The key for Obama, how prepared is he? Do not be surprised if Obama’s improvement, no matter how minimal, is reported by the media that the momentum is wearing an Obama pin.

Romney v. Obama, Fourth Quarter: This final and fourth debate format will be similar to the first debate. The focus will be exclusively on foreign policy. Foreign policy is not Obama’s strength. The question in this debate is where are the polls? If Obama has a comfortable lead, he can take the similar tactic as he did in the first debate, but be better prepared. If Romney has a lead, he would need to “close the deal.” If the polls have a dead heat, then this debate should be fun. It literally would be the fourth quarter of the Superbowl, with both teams tied. Either way, Romney will need to appear as the CEO-confident, knowledgeable of the facts, and not allow Obama to caricature him.

In the end, expect that this race will be close. The debates will help Romney and Ryan because both men are excellent in explaining policy issues. Ryan should do a good job in the Vice Presidential debate. This should keep some of the momentum that Romney built in. Do not be surprised that Obama will gain some of the lost momentum in the second debate, but not all of it. The third debate will literally settle the election.


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