UPDATE at 10:28 p.m.: Predicted sound-bite highlights of the night: Romney’s devastating rundown of the failed economic recovery the past four years, Obama’s comment that it’s “offensive” for Romney to suggest he and his administration weren’t forthright about Benghazi attacks. The former was the best, most sustained argument of the night from either man. The latter, a perfect way for Obama sympathizers to say “the president is back!” We’ll see which one — or something else — resonated the most with voters.
UPDATE at 9:54 p.m.: One story line tomorrow will be the way Romney dinged George W. Bush for his budget deficits. And, also in his answer to the way he differs from Bush, says his party “has been focused on big business for too long” and should be more focused on small business. That answer flies in the face of one of Obama’s main lines of attack tonight.
UPDATE at 9:36 p.m.: Obama says, “It’s just not true.” Romney says, “It’s absolutely true.” The topic doesn’t matter — it’s been like that all night. This one will go to the fact-checkers.
UPDATE at 9:15 p.m.: So far, “aggressive Obama” sounds a lot like “lecturing Obama.” He also is making a big bet that viewers will believe his argument that Romney only cares about Big Business and “the rich.” We’ll see how well the two work as a combo.
Will we finally see a second-term vision from President Obama tonight? That’s the advice from Democratic consultant extraordinaire James Carville’s firm, Democracy Corps:
The campaign has reached a tipping point where we believe the president has to offer a bold narrative, policies and choice if he is to win re-election and get to a substantial enough victory that enables him to govern and face the great challenges ahead. The first debate really did disrupt the race and presents a painful real-time test of what happens when the president tries to convince people of progress and offer a very modest vision of future change. Voters are not looking for continuity but changes that help the average Joe.
So far, Obama’s second-term vision consists of more of the things he did with Democratic majorities in Congress or would have accomplished, if it weren’t for those darn Republicans after the 2010 midterm “shellacking.” Put another way: leftovers.
Carville’s firm suggests he try something else — but in fact, the advice looks a lot like using better, more poll-tested ways of saying essentially what he’s been saying all along. This is a bit reminiscent of Obama’s customary excuse that he just hasn’t explained himself well enough. And if Obama does come out with new proposals tonight, will that be satisfactory to undecided voters — or will they see it as a cynical ploy this late in the game?
We shall see. The live-blogging will commence shortly after the debate does, and I’ll be tweeting my thoughts as well.
– By Kyle Wingfield