The great debates

In the coming days the world will witness whether Romney has what it takes to take on a sitting president. If he can do so, and land a punch or two, his odds for victory will improve considerably

Can Romney land a punch tonight?
Dr. James Boys
On 3 October 2012 14:38

The debates in this election cycle will be fascinating to observe. Irrespective of one’s own view of the candidates, both Obama and Romney are professional politicians. They are not leaving anything to chance and have both been practicing for months. Neither will really debate one another. Instead they will have stock answers, ready to be wheeled out in response to predictable questions.

The degree to which the candidates can inject some personality into what could become a rather staid environment will, therefore, be revealing.

Tonight's debate comes hot on the heels of a contentious video that has reappeared (available to view here at the Commentator) that reveals a very different side to Barack Obama than has widely been seen before. This is footage from a 2007 speech in which Obama, then a declared candidate for president, made direct and specific references to issues of race, was covered at the time, but seemingly forgotten. It appears to be a classic example of the free ride that Obama was accused of receiving by much of the media.

The release of the tape has sparked debate around its timing and merits. Is it, as Juan Williams has suggested, inherently racist to release the video in which the current president addresses race head on? Or is it as relevant as releasing a hidden recording from a fund raising dinner held several months ago in which a candidate for the president appears to dismiss 47 percent of the electorate?

Both candidates made both addresses in the midst of campaigns. Neither would have been naive enough to believe that their words would not be reported upon. The question is to what degree these tapes will impact upon the debates and the ensuing election.

The chances are that both tapes will merely reinforce the views of both sets of supporters. The vital aspect will be the degree to which they impact the vital 5 percent of swing voters who will decide the election.

Obama really just needs to keep calm and carry on doing what he is doing, as he is ahead in the polls and really doesn’t need to debate Mitt Romney. The challenge, therefore, is for Romney to do something dramatic, to throw caution to the wind, and shake up the contest.

As things stand he is set to lose. He has, therefore, nothing to lose by taking the battle to Obama on the economy, on jobs, on healthcare, and on foreign policy in a forum that will leave the president nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide.

In the coming days the world will witness whether Mitt Romney has what it takes to take on a sitting president and emerge unscathed. If he can do so, and land a punch or two, his odds for victory in November will improve considerably and motivate his legions of supporters. If he proves unable to do so, then it will finally be time for the obligatory Plump Female to begin her low, mournful torch song, lamenting Romney’s beleaguered campaign. 

Dr. James D. Boys is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. He is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond University in London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @jamesdboys

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