The consensus is in for exactly what each candidate should do in order to be victorious in the first presidential debate. Below I will summarize what recommendations Obama and Romney have been receiving.
The polls now show increasing voter enthusiasm among Democrats – enthusiasm that is 11 points higher than the Republicans. Will this confidence boost be enough to propel President Obama to victory? The media seems to think that this boost plus the continuing downturn by Romney’s campaign could be enough to win. Their advice: be “normal”. Don’t be too smart, don’t be “snarky”, no big words, relax, don’t look so tired, and dye some of that “earned gray hair”. Additional advice has centered around policy and how to not go on the defensive (because if you go on the defensive, then you’ve lost). President Obama knows that Romney will want to focus on the economy and job creation, but there is a whole world of policy problems that are directly related to job creation that are not Romney’s strong suits. As CNN described it:
“If moms are worried about paying for their reproductive health care or whether their rights are respected, it is hard to concentrate only on the economy. If immigrants are worried about being discriminated against or their families deported, it adds to the stress of their economic life. If gays and lesbians can’t have their families recognized, it makes their search for meaningful work more complicated as they cobble benefits together. If college students are worrying about the stress of their student loans rather than studying as hard as they can, their chances of pulling themselves up are more limited.”
Delving into these issues can make the situation seem not as if it is a choice for different routes the country could take but rather, if you reject Obama, you will be supporting Romney (negative undertones). This will allow Obama to not be on the defensive.
On the other hand though, Romney is a well-conditioned debater. He not only has time to practice leading up to the first debates, but also had much practice this year during the primaries (unlike Obama). This doesn’t guarantee Romney a victory though. To win, Romney must adjust viewer’s image of him by not smirking, showing genuine emotion, making his skin tone “a half-shade warmer”, and using less hair product so that his hair will be “slightly tousled”. And that’s only what Romney must do to his image. In addition, Romney must closely stay to a memorized script and avoid saying anything beyond it. He must also stay away from details, especially those regarding his economic plan that is an “anathema to the majority of voters”. Despite the laundry list of things Romney must do in order to win, Romney, as the challenger, has the potential to pleasantly surprise his audience by an “adequate performance” which could result in him as the declared winner.
All of these scripts and image changes may seem superficial, but for a media keen on catching any slip ups, details matter. Both candidates have work to do before Wednesday. We will see which candidate is able to deliver a centrist but partisan, widely accepted and obviously successful message while portraying a confident, knowledgeable leader and a “casual-earnest talk-normal guy” in all its irony.