2Curated News Edition
Submitted at 9/8/2012 8:52:00 AM
Fall's must-see political TV:Obama-Romney debatesBy DONNA CASSATA,Associated Press – 35 minutesagoWASHINGTON (AP) — Finally,the fall season offers the matchupsure to attract the biggestaudience of the campaign:President Barack Obama goingone-on-one with Republican MittRomney in three prime-timedebates.Typically the top political drawin the final sprint to Election Day,the debates assume outsizedimportance this year with the racea dead heat.The candidates will have theirsound bites and rhetoric downcold so any slip or inadvertentmove — remember PresidentGeorge H.W. Bush's exasperatedglance at his watch or DemocratAl Gore's repeated sighing? —could roil the campaign for daysand linger in voters' mind untilNov. 6.No wonder Romney spent daysthis past week at the Vermontestate of former Massachusetts Lt.Gov. Kerry Healey for debatepractice sessions; Ohio Sen. RobPortman, played the role of Obama.The president has had onepractice session withMassachusetts Sen. John Kerry,the Democrats' stand-in forRomney, and is certain to haveseveral more before the firstdebate Oct. 3 in DenverThe second debate, a town hall-style session, is Oct. 16 inHempstead, N.Y. The finaldebate, on foreign policy, is Oct.22 in Boca Raton, Fla. GOPrunning mate Paul Ryan and VicePresident Joe Biden have onedebate, Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky.Incumbents usually are at adisadvantage, defending a recordagainst a challenger critiquingfour years of work. Obama will betrying to avoid the fate of Presidents Ronald Reagan andGeorge W. Bush, who turned inflat debate performances in theirfirst encounters with rivals. In theend, though, it didn't hurt eitherone as they both won re-election."Debating is a muscle that doesn'tget used very often," said AlanSchroeder, a journalism professorat Northeastern University and theauthor of "Presidential Debates:Forty Years of High-Risk TV."''Mitt Romney is better tonedbecause he came off 20-plusprimary debates. President Obamahas not been on a debate stage infour years."Debates aren't like the highlychoreographed campaign event orstump speech marked by over-the-top rhetoric. Schroeder saiddebates require a differentdynamic — candidates need to berespectful, differing in opinion butavoiding any impression that it'spersonal."In 2008, the first debate betweenBarack Obama and John McCain,one of the takeaways was McCaindid not make eye contact withObama," Schroeder said. "Thatcame off as rude, disrespectful."Part of the practice sessions isfiguring out when to beaggressive and how todemonstrate leadership. It's alsohoning the lines from months of campaign speeches as thecandidates get their finalopportunities to speak directly totens of millions of voters.In the first debate, on domesticpolicy, Romney and Obama willbe armed with competingnumbers and visions."We will not surrender ourdreams to the failures of thispresident," Romney told anaudience in Bedford, N.H., lastDecember. Expect the Republicanto point to 23 million Americansout of work or underemployed, anational debt now at $16 trillionand three years of anunemployment rate above 8percent.In a speech in April, Romneysketched out the Republicanvision of smaller government, lessregulation and a greater role forbusiness."Free enterprise has done more tolift people out of poverty, to helpbuild a strong middle class, tohelp educate our kids, to make ourlives better, than all of thegovernment programs puttogether," Romney told a meetingof the Newspaper Association of America.Expect Obama to counter thatmore than 4.6 million jobs havebeen created since he took officeafter recession-driven job lossesapproaching 800,000 a monthunder Bush. In his bid to boost themiddle class, the president willargue that he's reduced the typicalfamily's federal tax burden by$3,600. He also will talk aboutshared responsibility and a rolefor government."As citizens, we understand thatAmerica is not about what can bedone for us. It's about what can bedone by us, together, through thehard and frustrating but necessarywork of self-government," Obamasaid in his convention speech.Both will be pressed for specificson their job creation claims.Romney promises 12 million new jobs; Obama the creation of 1million manufacturing jobs.Neither has said how he wouldmake those jobs happen.The candidates are diametricallyapart on health care, Medicare,gay marriage, immigration andabortion rights — all potentialdebate issues.The second debate on Oct. 16will cover domestic and foreignpolicy with questions from agroup of undecided votersselected by the GallupOrganization. This format thatcould elicit the unusual and thememorable.It was at a 1992 town hall debateinvolving President George H.W.Bush, Democrat Bill Clinton andindependent Ross Perot in whichthe Republican was caughtlooking at this watch. His reactioncame as an audience member wastalking about how much the deeprecession had personally affectedhim. Bush, who lost that election,later said that he was thinking:"Only 10 more minutes of thiscrap."The final debate Oct. 22 focuseson foreign policy, an area inwhich Obama has received highmarks from Americans in opinionpolls. The president will offer aspirited defense of his aggressiverecord in pursuing al-Qaida, thekilling of Osama bin Laden andthe collapse of MoammarGadhafi's government in Libya.As for his rival, Obama said inhis convention speech thatRomney and Ryan are neophytes.
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