8 Questions

Dan Balz on what to expect
in the presidential debates

Question 8: What are Obama's and Romney's most memorable moments from past debates?

Obama and Romney have both been in debates dozens of times during the past five years. The strategists and scholars who offered views for this package cited several for Romney: His Florida debate against Gingrich, when he staggered his opponent by noting that the former speaker also had investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; his skillful destruction of Rick Santorum in the Arizona debate; and of course the bet he dared Rick Perry to take: “Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks?”

For Obama, there is but one memorable moment cited by almost everyone, and it wasn’t one he should be proud of. It came days before the New Hampshire primary in January 2008 when one of the questioners asked Clinton about perceptions that she was not very likable.

Clinton parried as deftly as should could, pretending to be hurt. Obama tried to offer a bit of encouragement, but what he said came off as snide and condescending: “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

His comment no doubt helped cost him the primary and gave Clinton new life. Romney also suffers from perceptions that he’s not as likable as the president. Obama should have that moment from 2008 in mind if and when the issue comes up at one of this year’s debates.