After watching both conventions, it’s clear that both presidential candidates face major challenges.
As the incumbent, Barack Obama should have gone into the convention as the favorite. His approval ratings, however, have been low based on the sluggish economy and polls had the race at dead even. At the convention, therefore, the Democrats had to recast their record from one of failure to one of moving in the right direction. To win this argument, they have to convince voters that the Republicans’ solutions are the same ones that got the economy into trouble in the first place.
At Tampa, the Republicans portrayed Obama as having blundered the job of managing the economy and offered themselves as knowing how to fix the problems. Romney/Ryan face a major challenge in winning the electoral college even if the popular vote is close. Therefore, it is imperative that they overcome the portrait of Romney as someone who is too rich to appreciate the problems of the middle class and Ryan’s tea party philosophy as cruel and un-American.
People who follow these issues closely can easily take apart each candidate’s arguments. Fact checkers can point out the many discrepancies and inconcistencies. But the election will be determined in large part by perception not fact. Thus, Bill Clinton could have a major impact on the outcome. The GOP lacks anyone of Clinton’s stature or his effectiveness as a speaker. He is unequalled in his ability to reduce complex issues to a sound bite.
The debates give Romney an opportunity to overcome Clinton’s impact. Painting Obama into a corner will not be easy. He sounds convincing even when he’s contradicting previous statements or decisions he made over the past three plus years.
To win the debates and the electrion, Mitt Romney must both catch Obama off-guard, pointing out where his claims lack veracity, and make a convincing case that his plan will work. It’s a tall order, but he doesn’t deserve to win if he can’t accomplish both goals.