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Save the date. October 3, 2012, will decide the Presidential election. At the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will face off in the first of three debates. Most voters only watch the first debate, so the pressure will be on to make a good initial impression. Neither candidate is at ease with the format, but each cannot afford to flub a line or have an off-night.

The election is two months away and yet neither Obama, nor Romney have really defined themselves. The person in the street cannot recite from memory the kind of bland, frequent sloganeering that Presidential campaigns usually produce. Twenty years ago, the oft-heard refrain was "it's the economy, stupid". Sixteen years ago, President Clinton spoke over and over about "building a bridge to the 21st Century".  

In what has been a spectacularly boring election cycle, a former President made a more effective case for re-election than the candidate himself. Usually, the public is aware of what most of the time are very basic opening arguments well before early September. Rarely, if ever, does it take the pomp and circumstance, plus the visual saturation of a convention to build a case for the American people. Incongruously, the GOP and the Democratic party have waited as long as humanely possible to take off the gloves.

Candidate Obama, four years ago, was at first an uninspiring debater. Early in the primary season, he tended to drone on monotonously and get lost in his own rhetoric. John Edwards, prior to his disgrace, reached out to the future President during a brief commercial break at one early debate. Edwards implored Obama to focus. Of course, back then, the junior Senator from Illinois was thirty percentage points down and a longshot at best.  

A unexpected and grueling primary fight with Hillary Clinton gave Obama several opportunities to improve his form. While he clearly made substantial progress, the eventual President could never be confused as a natural verbal jouster. In thirty day's time, we'll see how Professor Obama matches up against Mitt Romney, whose strong suit is most certainly not extemporaneous public speaking.  

Presidential elections prior to now have been decided by face-to-face matchups. President Gerald Ford came all the way back from almost certain defeat in 1976, only to stubbornly insist in a debate that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. The gaffe and his refusal to admit that he goofed may well have done in his bid to win a full term.

Four years later, history often does not report just how close the Carter/Reagan race was until its bitter end. A majority of voters wanted to cast their ballots for the former California governor, but weren't entirely sure about it until right at the end. The debates shored up support for the Republican challenger, leading Americans to desert the unpopular Carter in droves. All they needed was assurance, in their minds, that they were making the right decision.

Now, in 2012, voters are confused about the wisdom of changing horses in midstream. That being said, Carter comparisons are only useful to a degree, for anyone's cause. A race that has been fairly tight for months will likely stay this way until Election Day. The impressions the American people will form of both President Obama and Governor Romney, podium to podium, will stay with them all the way to the ballot box.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 12:31:35 PM PDT

  •  Really? (25+ / 0-)
    The election is two months away and yet neither Obama, nor Romney have really defined themselves.
    I'm pretty sure I disagree with this.  I mean, even if you believed that no one could be defined until the white hot pressure of a presidential debate, Obama has done that before.
  •  I disagree - it will already be decided (8+ / 0-)

    Barring some unforeseen circumstance -

    Obama will be up 4-5 pts at the time of the debates, and its a lot easier to debate on offense than on defense.  All he has to do is play it cool and not screw up.  

    Romney, on the other hand, will be pressured to go for the jugular, and he already comes across as a dick- think the media perception of Al Gore vs. W in the first 2000 debate.

    Also -- if debates had any role in selecting a President-

    Bush's 2nd debate against Kerry - the "hard work" debate where Bush seemed drugged or drunk and couldn't speak coherently, should have decided that election.

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 12:37:06 PM PDT

  •  Actually, the citizens will elect the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah, chimpy

    President, if nobody screws up the tallies and the electoral college.
    The President, as are many other candidates for public office, is an applicant for a position, and a temporary one, at that.
    All of our Congress critters are, in fact, temps and, as such, can be fired at will -- i.e. no explanation need be given.  It is this fact, more than any other, I think, which explains their antagonism towards what they refer to as the "bureaucrats." The permanent bureaucracy must be a constant thorn in the side of people who's days are always numbered, even if they're not very good at counting.
    In any case, turn-over in Congress is good.
    I wonder if the newly unemployed will be counted in the national stats.  Will they qualify for unemployment?

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 12:48:37 PM PDT

  •  I bet both campaigns are using psyops pros... (0+ / 0-)

    ... to develop ways to leverage the debates to trigger their opponent off message. Maybe even get him angry! It'll be fascinating, for sure. But decisive?  

    Let all Bush tax cuts expire and , bring on the Sequestration cuts to defense.

    by kck on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 12:49:37 PM PDT

  •  Considering that Romney now has to defend almost (3+ / 0-)

    everything he says and shakes his Etch-A-Sketch over every statement he offers, the debates could be a very painful thing to watch. There is no way Romney can come off looking "good."I would not be surprised to see him cancel after the first debate.

  •  You lost me with this: (11+ / 0-)
    The election is two months away and yet neither Obama, nor Romney have really defined themselves.

    Statements like the above remind me of the nonsense Fox News used to push during the latter parts of the primary and during the whole general election.  After spending LITERAL MONTHS of in-depth Reverend Wright analysis, Harvard Law School analysis, high school and undergraduate school investigations, Indonesian trips and interviews with teachers, even going so far as to attempt to destroy the reputation of a well-known and respected dead professor, they continued to ask:  


    They all but mapped his entire DNA ladder.  They dug into his senate record (both state and federal), dug into his mother's background, his father's, his grandfathers.  Dissected every single word in both of his books, his speeches and everything else he's done or said.

    Barack Obama has defined himself over the past four years, and way before this.  OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  He's for the middle class, he's pro-fairness, pro-earth, pro-jobs, pro-America, pro-non-destructive energy sources, and a bunch of other stuff I don't have time to type.

    People know this man, they've seen him in action.

    As FLOTUS said the other night, he's the same man he was before.  Nothing has changed, except he's the POTUS now and a damn good one at that.

    As for the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney has even defined himself.  Most anyone with a working brain cell knows him for the lying, tax cheating, flip-flopping, racist, entitled, elitist, bullying, robotic, gaffe-prone, self-centered dick that he is.

    Neither one of these men need to define themselves any more.  America is quite familiar with both of them.

    What will decide this election?  Barack Obama must continue being awesome, and Mitt Romney must continue being a clueless asshole.  If Barack Obama stops being awesome, and Mitt Romney stops being a clueless asshole, then maybe the tide will turn, but leopards don't change their spots, and Romney has tried to reinvent himself dozens of times, only to come out the same as before---a joke.  

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

    by WFBMM on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 12:59:14 PM PDT

    •  I don't think Romney is racist (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      His father certainly was not.  He certainly was not raised by his parents to be a racist.  But he lacks his father's commitment to racial equality and social justice.  And he will push the race buttons to help him get elected.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 01:10:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  if you're willing to push the button for racists (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kalmoth, Navy Vet Terp, S F Hippie, elmo, WFBMM

        ...then you deserve the tag as well.  I'm sick of people like Romney who declare themselves non-racists while doing nothing to keep racist acts from being done for them.

      •  So he's not a racist (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        He just plays one on TV.

        Close enough for me.

      •  His father was a lot of things Mitt's not-- (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        For one thing, his dad was the one who started the tax transparency thing.  His dad was the one who supported civil rights.  His dad would not be putting welfare ads, and all the other race-baiting crap Romney is doing.

        His dad had character. Mitt has nothing.  

        Mitt Romney is indeed a racist.  Just because his father wasn't one doesn't absolve him.

        Listen, my mom wasn't religious when I was growing up.  I wasn't raised in a Christian home, yet I'm a believer.  What my parents are, and what they believe or don't believe has absolutely NOTHING to do with who I am.  

        My mom is soft spoken and even tempered.  I am not.  I'm a pistol, or so I've been told.

        What's more, my mother is a democrat, but I became a Republican.  Katrina cured me of that madness and now I'm an Independent.  

        I say all this to say that my parents' beliefs, character issues and political leanings are theirs, not mine.  I'm an individual, just as Romney is.

        Mitt Romney is an ass.  His dad wasn't.  Mitt Romney is a racist.  His dad wasn't. This isn't a case of osmosis by DNA, okay?  Mitt is a terrible person and he can't co-opt his father's legacy.  

        “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

        by WFBMM on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 05:16:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  On the McLaughlin Group show last Sunday ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Mad Mad World

    ... the former RC priest and Nixon staffer John McLaughlin predicted that President Obama would win only one of the three debates. Seriously ... how can Rmoney win two debates? Unless it had to do with the quality or political leanings of the moderators. Of course, this prediction was made before the DNC. Still would like to know McLaughlin's reasoning ... he didn't offer any for his prediction.

    Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me, "how good, how good does it feel to be free? " And I answer them most mysteriously, "are birds free from the chains of the skyway? " (Bob Dylan)

    by JKTownsend on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 12:59:34 PM PDT

    •  Jebus, that guy's still on the tube? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clem Yeobright, WheninRome

      Does anyone pay attention to him any more?

      A definition is the enclosing of a wilderness of ideas within a wall of words -- Samuel Butler

      by A Mad Mad World on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 01:02:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not sure how you "win" a debate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's not a boxing match with judges scoring each round, and there are no "knockouts" where one of the candidate is knocked to the mat and doesn't get up by the count of ten so the debate is over.  I watched all the debates in 2008 and had no idea who won or lost any of them until the Daily Kos and others pronounced Obama and Biden the winners.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 01:14:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  WOW the distain drips from your diary... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lost and Found

    How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 01:50:33 PM PDT

  •  Fact: 20 yr ago, it was NOT ITES (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That "It's the economy, stupid" was the mantra of the Clinton campaign only became known when the insider books about the campaign were written.

    You're really out of your depth, diarist.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 02:08:25 PM PDT

  •  I doubt debates will be decisive. Romney and Obama (0+ / 0-)

    will probably both play defense. The possibility of some gain is more Joe Biden surprising and Ryan again disappointing for a minor Democratic bump.

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

    by TofG on Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 03:41:22 PM PDT

  •  Just curious, diarist (0+ / 0-)

    Are you old enough to have voted in the 90 and 94 elections?

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