All eyes will be on Denver tonight as the first presidential debate gets underway. We’ve seen Barack Obama in action for years and know what he’ll do: lie, fabricate, deflect, and distract. He’s very predictable.
Mitt Romney, however, has the advantage of being the brand-new guy on the scene. What he does with that opportunity is up to him. I have a feeling he’s going to use it to full advantage. Here are my top three things I'd like to see from him:
1. When making the choice between the candidates clear, base it less on a question of "competence" and more on an argument of ideology. This might be out of Romney's comfort zone, because he's a supremely able man who is widely known and respected for his extraordinary personal and professional competence. But Romney should make the choice an ideological one instead: are we going to choose the destructive path of Obama's statist redistributionism, or are we going to choose the path of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and economic freedom, as championed by Mitt Romney? Posing the argument in ideological terms will crystalize the choice for most Americans, who still believe in those great foundational principles.
2. Be tough and aggressive as you pound Obama on his abysmal record, and whenever you get an opening, say or do something to get under his skin. Since Obama has never really faced a tough election fight or been questioned aggressively or been criticized to his face, he's got a thin skin. If Romney can get under it, he could provoke a caustic response from Obama that will reveal what a jerk he really is. Witness "You're likeable enough, Hillary."
3. Be a Happy Warrior. The American people want to believe that Romney's the guy not just to fix the country---but to restore their optimism along with it. They're sick and tired of being sick and tired. As important as WHAT Romney says is HOW he says it. They want Mitt to be a Happy Warrior for the Great American Comeback. They want to know that he will fight the war for America's future---but they want to see that exuberant, Reaganesque confidence in the cause. If Mitt conveys joyfully that America CAN be saved...AND that she is WORTH SAVING...he will win not just the debate but the election.
Let the games begin.