Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Round 1: A Denver Debate Preview

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With Election Day drawing near, a campaign trail milestone approaches: The Presidential Debates.

Battleground state Colorado will host the first debate round, on Wednesday, October 3rd, at Denver University. Jim Lerher, former host of PBS’ NewsHour, will serve as moderator for the debate which will have a domestic policy focus.

In a statement released by the Commission of Presidential Debates Lerher explained that nearly half of the debate would focus on topics surrounding the economy, while the rest would focus on health care, the role of government and governing.

In a state where unemployment is 8.2%, the candidates discussion on the economy will be important to Colorado voters.

With recent polls showing that Obama is beginning to take the lead in battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, the debates provide the candidates an opportunity to appeal to undecided voters

The question is, with Obama beginning to take the lead in this race to the finish, will Romney’s debate performance help or hurt his bid for office?

Romney, who has been practicing since late Spring for the debates, had a lot to prove to the American public and the GOP during these debates.

With a recent series of gaffes that have drawn criticism to his campaign, it is up to Romney to present himself as relatable to viewers, who will be viewing him through critical lens since Romney’s recent 47% video debacle.

Romney has a high bar to meet. A recent Politico article declares that this debate is “do-or-die” for Romney. Steve Lombardo, who worked on the Romney campaign in 2008 spoke to Politico saying,

“It went from being important to being life-sustaining. Both from a fundraising perspective, to keep the money coming, and just a political perspective it’s huge. Romney can’t just do well and hold his own — he has to win and win decisively. If he’s at parity with the president, I don’t think that’s enough.”

Both camps have begun the process of lowering expectations for the their own candidates

“The president is obviously a very eloquent, gifted speaker — he’ll do just fine,” Romney said in a recent Fox New’s interview,“I’ve, you know, I’ve never been in a presidential debate like this and it will be a new experience.”

The President’s camp responded similarly to questions about preparedness, with traveling press secretary Jennifer Psaki saying that the president hasn’t debated in 4 years, unlike Romney, who has had much practice in the last year.

Both men have hurdles the clear during this first debate.

Wensdney’s debate will be in short answer format. David Birdsell, dean of the Student Public Affairs at Baruch College in New York, believes this format could pose a problem for the President.

“In my judgment, he’s not a particularly sterling debater,” said Birdsell in a recent Boston Post article. “His best forum is the stemwinder prepared speech, not the relatively tinier nuggets of reasons and discourse we find in the debate forum.”

While a lackluster performance would hurt the President, a poor debate performance could spell disaster for Romney’s campaign, which has taken some hit in the past several weeks.

A lot is riding on the outcome of this first debate and we’ll have to wait till Wednesday to see if the strategy and preparation yields positive results for either candidate.


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