It appears that the Romney campaign has made the strategic decision that their attacks on Obama will be made more in sorrow than in anger. Given that Obama is well-liked, Romney himself has high negatives, and many voters — particularly some women voters — are turned off by boiling campaign rants, one can understand this decision.
I would expect this "more sorrow than anger" approach to be on display during the first debate next week. Romney isn't naturally angry, so to try and force some faux fury might make him look silly, a la Al Gore in 2000. Remember how the vice president exaggerated his sighs, hurrumphs and moans? Gore's performance that night might have cost him the race. But anything less than a full-frontal assault on Obama by Romney will leave some Republicans sputtering with anger. And if his tactics don't work, as measured by an improvement in the real-time, over-analyzed daily polls, much of the GOP intelligentsia will be on the war path.
In the campaign and in governing, the president uses his personal popularity as a shield. And, no doubt, he will want to hide behind it in the debate next Wednesday. Combine this shield with the cooperation he gets from the mainstream media, and you have a pretty effective defense. If Romney tries to become harsh or angry beyond his stylistic capabilities it could backfire on him.
There are three presidential debates. The first debate needs to be about not losing. Let the other guy overexert himself and maybe make a mistake. The Romney campaign is justified in believing that it needs to be poised, mature and mistake-free for a while before bolder tactics can be deployed. Romney is in a fragile position. A return to his economic message and sure-footedness on the campaign trail is the best thing he can do for the next 10 days.