Mitt Romney on the Spot
In advance of tonight's first presidential debate in
National polls indicate Romney is still in close contention, but state-by-state surveys show he has been slipping in key battlegrounds such as
Both these urgings make sense. Yet in a broader sense, tonight's long-anticipated confrontation will be watched to see and hear how the heralded corporate repair man manages to sell himself as a prospective president and world leader.
Despite months of public exposure from the marathon Republican primary debates, his party convention and traveling thousands of miles on the campaign trail, Romney has remained a question mark. What sort of man is behind that friendly if stiff and reserved demeanor? His efforts to connect with
For all the legitimate complaints millions of Americans have against
Yet it will be imperative for the challenger to focus more on substance than on style in this first debate. He needs to bring the contest back to his primary argument for being the better candidate -- that he is uniquely suited to lift America out of its economic doldrums and put its millions of unemployed back to work.
That means finally offering a much more specific roadmap to recovery than in his general five-point agenda on education, energy, foreign trade, deficit reduction and small business stimulation. He was able to be clear and definitive enough in his opposition to the auto industry bailout and "Obamacare," but much less so in spelling out how he would deliver on the 12 million new jobs he has promised.
Instead, Romney has allowed himself to be seen, first, as a fawning courtier of the most conservative elements in his party, contradicting his earlier moderate posture. Second, he has encouraged the view of himself as man of great wealth insensitive to the struggles of the less fortunate in the society. His taped fund-raising remarks, in which he dismissed "47 percent" of Americans as non-taxpaying takers of government largesse who would never vote for him anyway, threw him onto the defensive and handed the Obama strategists a bonanza for their television blitz against him.
For all these reasons, tonight's debate will be the greatest challenge for Romney against an incumbent president since Democratic presidential nominee
But Romney may have no other recourse than to lay out a much more convincing program of job creation for the "100 percent of Americans" he now claims to champion after his colossal gaffe.
Conservative kibitzers who are advising Romney to pivot suddenly to assaulting Obama for failing to take more decisive action in
Tonight's debate is Romney's best chance yet to make the more convincing case for himself and his plans as Mr. Fix-It at home. He needed to make that case long ago, and now time is running out on him.
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