Before the last presidential debate, I suggested that a good strategy for President Obama (or any candidate for that matter) would be to adopt an unanticipated strategy — like a right-handed boxer fighting southpaw — to throw his opponent off stride. It turns out that both candidates followed that strategy: Obama played comatose, and it was Romney who unexpectedly and successfully fought as a moderate.
Today, Obama’s camp is telegraphing the president’s strategy: He will be much more aggressive, engaging on the “47 percent” remark and the details of Romney’s tax plan. I’m sure that’s true, but I hope the president’s fighting style is subtle and not wild. Romney is ready with great comebacks on the president’s zingers; he practiced them for the first debate, and he has undoubtedly honed them since. The president needs to weave his critique of Romney into a larger narrative about how the two men will govern and what the consequences will be for the American people.
The president faces many challenges tonight. Unlike in Denver, he will have not only a moderator — and presumably a more engaged one — he will have an audience. He will need to make his points carefully, steering between the audience questions, the moderator’s follow-ups and the thrusts of his opponent.
I am hoping for and expecting a strong performance from the president tonight. His first debate has certainly given him the chance for a strong comeback.