Pres. Obama is regarded by many as the master of the town hall format, based upon his presumed superior ability to empathize with voters & gain their trust.
Romney also has the distinction of having demolished his opponent in a debate without a major gaffe, a rarity in decisive political debates, where gaffes often dictate the result. And Obama is hardly gaffe-free; if he has a Rick Perry Moment like this (0:40) in a debate his unearned aura of supposed eloquence will be punctured. Poor performances in the remaining debates could cost "O" the election, according to politics maven Mike Barone. That Obama apparently thinks he WON the first debate augurs ill for his chances of doing better in the two remaining presidential contests.
Obama clearly will be more aggressive, but that greatly risks backfiring, especially in the TH format. "O" is arrogant, self-righteous, semi-delusional (in believing his own Master of the Universe spin) and thin-skinned, personality traits hardly conducive to measured attacks. Bob Woodward noted on "Fox News Sunday" that Obama cannot radically alter his persona in the second debate. Doing so, Woodward said, would strike viewers as contrived & artificial. Woodward added that "you can get the killer question" from voters, putting one or the other candidate on the spot.Media Bypass. Romney will have to push his narrative through media screeners. If he can succeed, he can frame the stark choice between freedom & statism that lies at the core of what he versus Obama stands for. Bill Kristol summarizes Romney's "winning answer" (see this TWS link for full text of Mitt's debate answer":
So: The Burkean case against trillion-dollar deficits. The Reaganite case for broad-based economic growth. The Tea Party-infused case against Obama-care. The Chris Christie-like case against unnecessary government spending.
Historian James W. Ceaser writes on how in the first debate Romney combined empathy, conviction, bold plans & a sincere offer of bipartisanship to "thread the needle" in a rare "unspinnable event."
Bottom Line. Because the TH format is regarded as a natural for Obama, Romney again has a chance to surprise. If he engages voter questions well--he need not be as near-perfect as he was in the first debate--Romney should gain more voter approbation. A better vision for the future, plus, if it comes up, cogent points on Libya can spark another Romney win.
Above all, with momentum favoring Mitt, Obama must win, whereas a draw suffices for Romney.
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