Three debates in Eleven Days

Three debates in Eleven Days

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

It has been almost two weeks since Obama lost his way in his coast ride to re-election. Thanks to his mis-handling of Romney in debate one, the President now finds himself in a real donnybrook with a revitalized Romney with a full head of steam out after his job. The challenge, therefore, for the Vice-President tomorrow night in his debate with Paul Ryan, is to be himself and look knowledgeable, even if Ryan will try to make him into a lightweight.

Biden is now the opening act for Obama’s two debates in six days contest beginning next Tuesday. Romney needs to get back to his rehearsal room so he can come out sharp while Obama needs to prepare to get into the ring and slug this time, so that his campaign does not fall apart.

Biden can even afford one of his mis-speaks, if he is quick on the comeback. He needs to force Ryan to explain his conversion to the Romney economic program and hope Ryan returns to his policy wonk self so that the technical details will confuse, bore, and overwhelm the public. Ryan may be young and sharp, but Biden is a known entity, somewhat like Hubert Humphrey’s happy warrior model.  He needs to be partisan and sharp; something he is used to from his Senate days.

The Democrats continue to show a lead in enough of the swing states to make Romney nervous, but they must justify it now. Meanwhile the Republicans need to sustain their newly found mojo to bring home all the critical states in play: Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina. The Romney strategy allows for no mistakes or room for error, while Obama needs only to insure that all the battleground states do not break Romney’s way.

If Obama is indeed at the moment within 20 electoral votes of the 270 votes needed to win, then the national polls are truly irrelevant. Unlike Romney he does not need to carry them all, but he must prevent Romney from winning them all. For the Obama-Biden team they need to put the train clearly back on the track and that begins tomorrow night. For Romney-Ryan they need to continue to surprise and disarm their opponents. Biden needs to set the table for Obama next week, while Ryan needs to make the Democrats continue to be nervous about whether they can plug all the leaks.

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