If Round One proved anything, it is that there are plenty of surprises ahead and the finish line is still a long way down the road. Pundits around the country and throughout the world have been scratching their heads trying to figure out what happened in the first debate, but if they learned nothing else they should now know that the three remaining debates could be just as unpredictable.
The first and only Vice Presidential debate comes on Thursday, October 11. The “Biden Factor” has created more than its share of interest when Joe Biden and Paul Ryan square off, but there is another aspect to that debate that did not impact Obama/Romney: the baseball playoffs.
While baseball no longer captures the imagination of sports fans the way it used to, people who have grown weary of presidential politics may find the National League Playoffs more to their liking. If there is no sweep, the Wild Card champion will be playing the Cinderella Washington Nationals in game four of the division series. That could affect debate viewership.
As for the debate itself, much will be written and said in anticipation of any gaffes Vice President Biden might commit. The first big surprise will be that he does not make any. Biden has been around a long time. He will no doubt be better prepared than Obama was for his debate.
Fact checkers are becoming more commonplace these days, and they will be at the ready to dispute or confirm any numbers thrown out by the candidates. With Paul Ryan’s reputation as a numbers cruncher, chances are good that the microscope will be more focused on his information than Biden’s. Biden may actually benefit if he just gets through without a major slip-up.
Five days later, on October 16th, Obama and Romney square off again. Had the first debate gone as most analysts predicted, the second meeting would be a non-event. Now the world will be focused on President Obama to see if he can counter his defeat in episode one.
For this debate the baseball playoffs will be nearing the halfway point and the American League Championship series will be underway that night, unless weather changes the schedule. How that affects the debate audience is unknown.
Most of the focus after Debate #1 was Barack Obama’s poor showing. Perhaps the disappointment from Obama supporters was more the result of overestimating the president’s oratorical skills than a lack of performance. Obama’s god-like persona has been created by an adoring press and magnified beyond reality. There was little room for anything but a fall.
Add to that the less-than-expected verbal abilities of Mitt Romney, who cleverly kept his fire and brimstone under wraps until the moment it was needed, leaving the impression that Romney dominated Obama in embarrassing fashion.
Obama was sideswiped by Romney for several reasons, not the least of which are that the president regards himself as smarter than Romney and because he is lazy. Neither of those factors would lead Obama to believe it was necessary to prepare for an inferior opponent.
The next encounter will be different. Romney will not be able to sneak up on Obama. The incumbent will come out swinging if for no other reason than he knows that he must.
With a town hall format, the debate will be more to the president’s liking. Though still without his teleprompter, Obama enjoys pontificating in front of an audience where there is no feedback and he can speak in superior tones as an all-seeing, all-knowing deity.
It will be no surprise if Romney receives an unbalanced share of gotcha questions from the audience.
The surprise will come if Romney is as keenly prepared to handle the format and the president’s responses as he was in the first debate.
While pro-Obama analysts will be wringing their hands in anticipation of whether the president can bounce back, expectations will also run high that Romney cannot repeat his performance. If Romney is up to the task again, even if Obama improves, that may be the biggest surprise of the night.
If Romney comes up short or if Obama only appears stronger, the gains Romney made in the first debate will vanish overnight. The conversation will change and the 24/7 news cycle will render Obama’s first round failure moot.
On the other hand, if Romney surprises again, the second debate will be a game changer, and that is the possibility Obama fears most.
Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in
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