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Romney will bring talking points to the debate while Obama will tell the truth

If I may be allowed my upcoming presidential debate, 2 cents worth (adjusted for roughly 1.70% inflation), here goes.

When Barack Obama and Mitt Romney lock horns this Wednesday, they’ll just be getting warmed up when typical debates are coming to a close. From 9-10:30 PM (ET), they’ll be sitting on little high-chairs, sans pacifiers, trying to one-up each other. The debate will be on domestic issues and divided into a half-dozen, 15-minute segments. The first 3 will be devoted to the economy, followed by the equivalent of 2 more segments on health care and a final 15 minutes of arguing (‘er debating) about government and how things should be run.

The moderator’s moderator will be at the helm. Taking the reins as inquisitor will be veteran (and I do mean veteran) newsman, Jim Lehrer. The 78-year-old Lehrer, who retired as anchor or co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour last year after 36 years, has trod the print and electronic news runways for some 53 years. In his spare time Lehrer has written a dozen novels under his name and moderated almost as many presidential debates (11). He has a reputation for being consummately fair and objective.

As for the first debate, President Obama returns to Denver, arguably the scene of his greatest triumph. Who will ever forget the extraordinary scene of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at Denver’s Invesco Field, August 28, 2008? The Mile High Stadium had an official seating capacity of just over 76,000, but most estimates put the crowd at 84,000. The special memories of that event have to give Obama a sizable momentum edge going into the first debate.

Getting down to brass tacks as my father used to say, let’s see how this thing is going to play out. Physical appearances will not be a problem for either candidate. Both are considered ‘good-looking’ in their own way. Romney is remarkably well preserved for a man of 65. His resting heartbeat of 40 is amazing and a tribute to somebody who obviously exercises extensively. Not having to work will also take stress off the ticker. Obama has grayed up a bit, but still maintains a look of vigor and health. Some say he’s been looking tired lately. Let me assure you, he won’t look tired Wednesday night, October 3rd at 9 PM.

Romney risks being tanned-up a bit with makeup given his sallow skin pallor that TV lights will emphasize. Obama’s skin tone needs little help, though he may get at least a powder base given the heat of the TV lights (remember the Nixon ‘sweat’). Since each man is sitting down, neither will tower over the other. Physically, it’s a basically even fight.

As Ricky used to say to Lucy, Romney’s got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do! Remember, at the end of all the bullshit anti-Obama TV attack ads, there remains the line – “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message.” Romney’s commercials tend to blame the president for real and imagined missteps on the economy, job loss, taxes and health care in particular. The blatant lie that Obama ended the work requirement for welfare reform, should be brought front and center. For his part, Obama will be put on the defensive as well, especially when it comes to Romney’s old stomping grounds, Bain Capital. A controversy has boiled up in Ohio over the accuracy of an ad run by an Obama-favoring superPAC that featured a man who blamed his wife’s cancer death on the loss of insurance from a company that was closed by Bain.

As long as neither candidates name appears at the end of the commercial, they’re off the hook by denying they ever knew a thing about such mischief in the first place.

There are some potentially explosive issue landmines out there, especially for Romney. Will Mitt tell his birther-fringe that once and for all he accepts that Barack Obama was born in the U.S. (just as the local papers reported at the time)? Will he renounce the redneck rants that Obama is a Muslim, terrorist sympathizer, socialist, communist and/or America-hater? I’d love to see Obama turn to Romney and ask, “Do you think I was born in the U.S.?” For Obama, Mitt will blast him on Jobs. Barack needs to point out job bills blocked by Republicans and how red states eviscerated public sector jobs while Obama was adding 4 1/2 million private sector jobs.

Debt and deficits will come up. Obama should give the Cliff Notes explanation of what they are, how they can be fixed, how Romney policies can’t fix them and how Republicans have kept them from being fixed. The Keystone Pipeline issue is potentially juicy. Obama should cite the alternative energy initiatives he’s tried to get passed. In fact he should make a big point of listing every initiative put together for the benefit of the citizenry, that has been blocked by the Republicans in congress.

I’d also love for Obama to talk about the billion-plus federal dollars that bailed out Romney’s Salt Lake City Winter Olympics that DC-hater Mitt has been taking all the credit for saving. I’d quote any of a number of Romney lines, savaging the federal government.

Will education and environment get a hearing? Maybe, but not extensively.

Health care is going to be a whole separate circus in and of itself. In his early statements, Mitt said he’s going to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in toto. Then he says he’ll keep some elements of the act. What elements? Then he should be asked to go down the list of what he’d repeal. This might be a good place to throw in Medicaid and Medicare.

Mitt’s handlers will give him talking points. No matter what Lehrer’s questions might be, the responses will be based on these repetitive talking points. On occasion, the question won’t be answered at all.

Bottom line…I find Mitt mildly creepy. He has an odd, almost metallic stare and he never seems to be quite in the moment. Obama looks at you like the guy on the next stool. You could talk basketball with the world’s most important man for hours. In any event, I’d be stunned if this debate moves the polls one way or the other. Like you, I’ll be on the Romney gaffe-alert. It should be entertaining.

A reminder. Please register; Saturday is the deadline in some states. Call and check with your election board. Check on absentee ballot logistics as well. And, most importantly Democrats, GOTV. Get out the vote.

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