I’ve watched debates, Presidential and otherwise, for over 26 years now, and participated in my fair share over the years. For better or worse, that left me in a position to occasionally offer advice to some candidates on debating in general. I am not arrogant enough to suggest that I have acquired enough knowledge on debate-craft to offer advice to a Presidential candidate. However, I think I am bright enough to figure out a few things that Romney really must do tonight to maintain the current swing in his direction.
1. – Be human. It’s been said many times, and bears repetition. The townhall format demands it more than anything else. Coming off as cold and unfeeling tonight will be deadly.
2. – Attack first, but only if certain of the result. Hillary Clinton came out to take responsibility for Benghazi today. If that isn’t bait, I don’t know what is. Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton do anything without getting something in return. Maybe the ones thinking Obama will take the blame on stage are right. Maybe the ones like myself thinking that there’s something foul going on in the Clinton family are right. Either way, it stinks. Better to stay away from attacking Obama on letting Hillary take the blame, and stick to attacking other atrocious decisions. There’s no shortage of green energy companies that have failed, wasting tax dollars. Or pick on something else in Foreign Policy, like the love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood. But, let Obama talk first on Hillary. Don’t jump the gun.
3. – Smile, but not too much. Biden set the tone on this one. There is such a thing as smiling too much, so don’t smile all the time. And it probably isn’t a good idea to laugh either, unless someone makes a legitimate joke. It might be hard to keep a relatively straight face when Obama says something ridiculous – it will happen. But, do try to keep from laughing at him.
4. – Everybody loves numbers, but not for more than a minute or two. No, you don’t sound like Ben Stein in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, but while the American public tends to love statistics, they don’t love them all the time. Don’t get mired in spewing numbers on anything. People’s eyes tend to glaze over, and this is not the time or place. The townhall setting is meant to be more conversational, so converse with the people.
5. – Be polite, and don’t be condescending. It’s tempting. Sometimes it is very hard not to treat Obama like a child. You compared him to your boys in the first debate. That worked, but overplaying that sort of thing will come off like you consider yourself above everyone else. Theoretically, that should be a good thing. People should support a presidential candidate that is perceived as better than themselves. That was the case before. But, unfortunately, that is no longer the case. I’d say smile through it, but Biden screwed that up (see number three here.) Just don’t pout or look down, since that’s part of what screwed up Obama last time around!
I’ve been asked about the outcome tonight, and have not answered. I won’t here either. The few times I have, I’ve either been absolutely right, or absolutely wrong – either way, it didn’t work out well. So, no predictions.