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October 22, 2012 8:45 PM Boca Debate Preview

By Ed Kilgore

I hadn’t really focused until today on the fact that this debate is being held in the same city as Romney’s infamous “47%” fundraiser. So Mitt gets a second “Boca Moment,” and Obama should have a relatively easy pivot point to bring up the first—maybe right after he says how nice it is to be in Boca Raton.

The CW going into this debate is that Mitt will be the Resolute Moderate, and will use this debate mainly to pivot constantly to economic talking points. Don’t know if there will be “zingers,” though I’m sure someone on Team Mitt has half-seriously suggested a spin on John Kerry’s famous 2004 line about Bush “opening fire houses in Baghdad and closing them in America”: Obama’s closing coal plants in Ohio and opening nuclear plants in Iran!

Perhaps the most interesting bit of gab I’ve heard today is a suggestion by a reader of Jim Fallows at The Atlantic that in the second debate Obama had “backloaded” his attack lines because Mitt’s really bad at second-level argumentation under pressure:

It’s a key flaw in how Romney operates. If you throw a boilerplate answer out, he will feel safe and respond with boilerplate. If you throw a knife, he will want to respond with a knife. If you time this correctly, however, and open with boilerplate with the intention to follow up with a knife, he isn’t prepared. He is a reactive debater (ie. Kennedy on guns, Romney was prepared for it and took him to task). They key the Obama staff has figured out is that they have to open by giving him nothing that merits a reaction, because he is much weaker in the follow-up back & forth round, and his personal body language and tics come out significantly more.

We’ll see if that happens tonight. One would think that by now Romney’s folk would have warned him emphatically about arguing with the moderator (the pretty complaint Bob Schieffer) and complaining about equal time. But perhaps they have research showing that undecided low-information voters listen to whoever has the last word, and we do know GOP “base” voters love candidates who play the victim with the MSM, even if they are actively helping them.

It will be interesting to see if even half of the talk at this “foreign policy debate” are about foreign policy. I wouldn’t bet on it.

I’ll be back when the lights come up at 9:00.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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