On Wednesday night the candidates meet for the first debate of this election. Tomorrow's topic is domestic policy which ought to be Romney's strong suit. Apparently Mitt has been practicing his zingers on aides since August. Something about this news does not inspire optimism on his behalf.
Still, I expect him to put up a decent performance, although I doubt he has the capacity to really exceed that (in fact I'm not really sure it's possible to do so in a podium debate, when the rules are so strict). Also: it's not enough for Romney to succeed; Obama must screw up. Only that combination has a chance of producing the kind of earthquake that could have an impact on the race.
The chart above is from a study of the final 2004 Bush-Kerry debate and its aftermath. It shows you just how important it is to win the post-debate debate, as the media get to work assessing who won and who lost.
It's always an interesting exercise to watch the debate and not watch or read the post-match commentary, make up your own mind about how the two candidates did, and then dive into the chatter. The odd thing is that there is usually a consensus, but it's usually not what you thought. The odder thing is that you soon find yourself agreeing with the consensus.
The first Bush-Kerry debate, by the way, was one that Romney will hope to emulate. The challenger was forthright and confident, and the incumbent looked under-prepared, shifty and bad tempered.
It made no difference in the end.