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Debating drumming: From the chattering class

A blink at what the pundits and paper's are saying this morning ahead of tonight's presidential debate...

USA Today offers up some questions: For Obama, "When is it time to stop blaming Republicans for [the sluggish economy], and why would four more years of your policies make it better?" For Romney, "Why would your proposals to cut taxes and regulations, which are very similar to those of Republican President George W. Bush, somehow produce a better result [for the economy]?"

Washington Post tics off what we "don't know" about the candidates: "What does Mr. Obama offer the jobless that should make them more hopeful about the next four years than the previous four? We don’t know. How would he persuade Congress to steer the nation away from the fiscal cliff? We don’t know. How would he respond to the threat of insolvency? He would “preserve Medicare” and “strengthen Social Security.” The platitudes are almost more insulting than no answer at all.

"But they are no more insulting than Mr. Romney’s platitudes and unworkable promises. The Republican says he would get the economy moving again by shrinking government and getting it out of our way. Which regulations would he do away with — those that protect the environment, public health and safe workplaces? He says he would reduce tax rates and broaden the tax-collecting base. Which deductions would he abolish or limit: mortgage interest; charitable contributions; health insurance? Mr. Romney says the federal government can spend far less as a share of the economy. What would he cut, other than his brave commitment to go after Amtrak and the National Endowment for the Arts? We don’t know, we don’t know and (other than his vow to block-grant Medicaid and so put at risk health care for the poor) we don’t know."

Read more from Columnists Fred Barnes and Kathleen Parker after the jump...

Kathleen Parker says people will be watching, mostly for Mitt Romney: "There’s no denying that the media have emphasized Romney’s awkwardness because it is strangely amusing. And because, as Obama joked at his first White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, most journalists voted for him. The media know and like Obama, and he flatters them with the sort of bonhomie that Romney seems incapable of expressing. On Wednesday night, it is probable that Americans will tune in as much to hear Romney puncture Obama’s record and describe his own as they will to witness what else there might be to the man. ...

"Romney’s job Wednesday isn’t to beat Obama. It is to win over America. You could sell tickets."

Fred Barnes advises Romney to "go where Obama cannot go": "Like a wide receiver in football, Mr. Romney needs to create separation between himself and his opponent. If they're quibbling over the legitimacy of Mr. Obama's $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan or whether Mr. Romney's tax proposal is revenue neutral, the advantage will go to the incumbent. Mr. Romney can prevail in those arguments without coming any closer to winning the presidency.

"The Republican challenger needs to go where Mr. Obama cannot go. What's required are ideas, initiatives and policies commensurate with America's moment of peril. This means, first of all, embracing the conservative reform agenda: entitlement reform, overhaul of the tax code, curbs on spending, an unhampered economy, regulatory relief, consumer-driven health care, a welfare state that doesn't promote dependency, a revitalized civil society. ...

"Mr. Obama, Democrats and the mainstream media will insist that the conservative agenda is risky and radical. (Some Romney advisers may agree.) And they'll be right. But Mr. Romney can argue credibly that he has big solutions for America's big problems. Mr. Obama, with no serious alternatives, will be left behind."

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