First presidential face-off in US: Debate pressure on Romney

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • |
  • Updated: Oct 04, 2012 01:39 IST

Shreyas Navare's cartoon on comparison between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney

Will Mitt Romney let fly “zingers” or reintroduce himself to voters during the debate Wednesday night? There seems to be more at stake for him than for Barack Obama.

Obama has merely to hold his own as Romney comes swinging at him as challengers do. And, critically, not sound imperious or contemptuous.

For Romney, it’s his last chance to lift his race and make a game of it. He has trailed the president in all recent polls, and found by his base to be running a patchy campaign.

Sharing the stage for the first time with the president will in itself give him some poll bounce apparently but beyond that, he has to deliver.

Latest poll has brought him some good news — Obama’s lead over him has narrowed among likely voters, making a turnaround look within reach.

Also, an old video from 2007 has surfaced of the then candidate Obama working an audience of African Americans that conservative media outlets are hoping will hurt the president.

But none of that is expected to help Romney in Denver Wednesday night. He will be expected to attack Obama relentlessly and sell the country his candidacy.

The Republican challenger will try to be “respectfully aggressive”, his aides have told reporters, trying to tamp down expectation and talk of the candidate cramming zingers.

The Obama campaign took a swipe at Romney referring to the “zingers he has memorised” in a pre-debate memo to the press Wednesday morning.

“Zingers” are one- or more-line put-downs candidates throw at each other, hoping they would become the defining moment of the debate, with no guarantees for the outcome.

Romney himself has said he would be tempted to use Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again,” line from his debate with then president Jimmy Carter.

There are others too. Such as this one from vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen to his opponent Dan Quayle, “Senator you are no Jack Kennedy.”

But, as many experts have pointed out, you really cannot go in there with scripted zingers. The best of them were those that just happened, at the spur of the moment.

Romney, experts are saying -- mostly those from his side of the aisle, has bigger challenges than to memorise zingers. He needs to talk about his plans, his agenda.


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