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If you can believe either of the Democratic or Republican candidates — and that’s asking a lot — neither thinks they can debate worth a damn and neither expects to do well at Wednesday night’s first Presidential debate.
Over in the Romney camp, the message is that Obama is a “universally acclaimed public speaker with natural gifts and extensive seasoning under the bright lights of the debate stage.”
Welcome to the expectations game, where candidates try to lower the bar in hopes it will be low enough to easily rise above it.
On Monday, Romney claimed the debate “isn’t about winning or losing.” He’s lying, of course. For his struggling campaign, the debate is all about winning.
Romney has to score big Wednesday night. Many political professionals have already written off his lackluster, inept campaign for the top job in America. The man who portrays himself as a savvy businessman is anything but on the stump.
For Obama, the stakes are also high. He’s an incumbent in trouble, one who failed to deliver on his promises of a better economy, a more unified America and better days. His only salvation has been the innate ability of Republicans to find and nominate bad candidates for President.
But Obama’s real opponent Wednesday night isn’t Romney. It’s his own arrogance, his own belief in his superiority. Whether true or not, Obama goes into the debate convinced he’s the smartest man on the stage and the only one qualified to live in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.
Both sides can try as hard as they can to lower expectations but the stakes are high and the debate can reshape the race.
“It is almost comical how candidate downplay expectations while they work their butts off in debate preparation,” spokesperson trainer Charles Campbell tells Capitol Hill Blue. “A good debate performance can revive a bad campaign and a bad performance can cripple a good one. That’s a political fact of life.”
That’s the only things in this tumultuous Presidential campaign that isn’t open to debate.