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Much like the first debate, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney will win the second debate as well but on a much smaller scale. The reasons for the second win in a row will be quite different on the surface but will be much the same beneath the surface.
On the surface, the distant and disinterested-looking President Obama will be more alert and more in-the-game because the criticism he received after the first debate dictates such a change in his performance. Yet, performance is all it is.
Obama may think that he learned something from Vice President Joe Biden’s performance in the vice presidential debate and might misguidedly even try to emulate the vice president in performance. That, unfortunately for Obama, would be a major mistake. Just because the political “left” practically endeared itself to Biden’s clownish-performance last week doesn’t mean that the president could ever get the same endearment for such antics. After all, Joe Biden has built a career on being “Joe, the character” that for some mysterious reason remains popular with the “left” in spite of himself – the gaffes and other extreme oddities that will unfortunately be his ultimate legacy. Why the political “left” has an undying admiration for such a person just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office continues to mystify persons on the “right”.
Obama cannot carry off the “Crazy Joe” antics and be a hit with the most important members of his audience – the undecided voters. Other than the obvious – that Joe Biden is totally “non-presidential” – Obama needs to be “presidential” without question. If Obama tries to smirk, smile at inappropriate and incomprehensible times even as Libya’s deadly attack is discussed, force repeated laughs-out-loud for the sole reason to be demeaning disruptive, and – worst of all – interrupt his fellow-debater 82 times in 90 minutes, he will fall flat on his face, harder than he did in the first debate.
Additionally, the format for the second presidential debate is totally different. This time around, the format is town hall debate which is quite different than what Americans saw on October 3 when the two presidential candidates met the first time as well as different than what was seen when Biden “performed” in Paul Ryan’s face. The second presidential debate which is at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY will have American citizens asking questions of Obama and Romney. The questions will be about foreign and domestic issues. In a strictly-defined format, the moderator should give no more than two minutes for each candidate to respond to each question. Then, by definition town hall format, the moderator should have one additional minute to facilitate a discussion as needed. However, whether or not this additional minute is going to be part of the format is unclear. When the debates were set up, it was reported that Obama didn’t want this additional minute for discussion prompted by the moderator. The people asking the questions – the American citizens in the live audience – are said to be undecided voters.
The obvious problem with this format is that there will be little opportunity for true debate between the two candidates. Without moderator control of the questions and follow-up discussion, America will probably see an audience member ask a question, followed by Obama or Romney turning their two minute answer into a mini-campaign speech. The benefit to this is that the candidates will be giving their views and policies, but it won’t have the fireworks of a true debate – the reason many people watch it. If it sounds like I’m trying to say that this debate will be a bigger “bore” than the first debate, it’s because I am. The format allows it to be.
One cannot imagine Obama or Romney getting away with Biden’s antics when an answer needs to be honored, as it will be asked by a prospective voter who is currently undecided as to which person he or she will vote for. Therefore, though Obama will be more aggressive, it is not expected that he will duplicate Joe Biden’s performance by any stretch of the imagination. He logically doesn’t have that opportunity without looking more foolish than Biden in doing so.
Though Obama will attempt to be “in control” and “in command” as he was not in the first debate, he will – via coaching and a practiced performance – come across as more confident-sounding and looking than he did two weeks ago. It would be nearly impossible to come across to the masses worse than he did the first time many believe he likely lost the election. History shows that many more people watch the first debate than the others. Therefore, if history repeats itself, Obama has made his negative mark on many who will not return to view another debate.
Regardless of the Obama performance this time, beneath the surface there is nothing that has changed in the past two weeks. President Barack Obama has a four-year failed record on jobs and the economy with flags burning throughout the Middle East compounded by the death of the four Americans in Libya to defend – which is virtually defenseless. Of course, regarding the economy and jobs, he will say that the nation is “headed in the right direction”, but Romney only needs to assert the obvious – any hint of improvement in the Obama job market and economy has been much too little, way too late.
President Obama is not debating a story-telling, Biden-like politician or even a statistics’ toting debater like Paul Ryan. He is debating a no non-sense, extremely successful and intelligent businessman who did not become the success he has always been by falling for a lot of B.S. – as they say – from a guy who has become a rock-star-styled politician. Honestly, Obama has met and will continue to meet his match with Romney. Romney will not let Obama even attempt to “Biden-debate” him with the type of non-sense as Paul Ryan had a bit of trouble deflecting last week only because it is beneath him to be as rude as Biden was.
In spite of the concerns over the format of the debate, Obama will come across with a stronger performance in the second debate. But, everyone needs to remember, we’re not looking for an Academy Award winner here – we’re choosing our president for the next four years. Aside from the expected improved performance, Obama’s underlying message will be the same as it was during the first debate. The message – that will come across loudly and clearly once again – is that Obama cannot honestly defend all that hasn’t been accomplished in the past four years as he needs to in order to look as good as his challenger.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.