Political Animal


October 16, 2012 8:44 PM Second Presidential Debate Preview

By Ed Kilgore

So the second debate begins at 9:00 EDT, and will revolve around up to 12 pre-screened questions from undecided voters living in the general area of Hofstra University. There’s some disagreement on exactly what moderator Candy Crowley is allowed to do to follow up once candidates have given their two minute “response.”

The pre-debate hype has been predictably large. I just heard Chuck Todd on NBC say “this is the moment” the remainder of the campaign will be determined.

As is obvious, the positions of the two candidates have been reversed from the first debate: it’s Romney who has the relatively simple task of reprising his first debate performance, continuing his new Moderate Mitt re-positioning and parrying challenges to his policy proposals by sounding authoritative. The general feeling is that if Romney is adjudged to have “won,” follow-up questions about his facts and honestly will be obscured, even as they were after the Denver event. The main new challenge for him is to appear non-weird in interactions with Real People. Meanwhile, Obama has the more complicated task of (1) acting “engaged” and aggressive; (2) leaving no Romney attack or assertion un-addressed; (3) clarifying his take on his first-term accomplishment and second-term agenda; and (4) knocking big holes in the Moderate Mitt facade.

So despite the assumption that “expectations” are lower for Obama than in Denver, setting a lower threshold for success, he has more marks to hit, and a second “Romney win” could be inflated in post-debate spin even more than was the first. No matter what happens, though, you can expect Team Obama to show up in the spin room in full force and loaded for bear.

Regular readers know that I approach these debates with trepidation and even a bit of disgust. My live-blogging will focus more on what I hear and what I know about the substance of the discussion rather than conventional debate “scoring” or all the happy crap about energy levels and other style points (you can get plenty of that elsewhere). And I won’t look at Twitter until the whole thing is over.

So I’ll drink some bitter coffee and get ready for the show, trying not to accept that things like the continuation of the Medicaid program as we know it, or the continuation of a government that tries to avoid war and tries to acknowledge threats like climate change, could be on the line.

As before, I’ll break the live-blog into sections for easier reading and commenting.

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.


  • VaLiberal on October 16, 2012 9:05 PM:

    Has Romney got lifts in his shoes????

  • Varecia on October 16, 2012 9:26 PM:

    Is there a moderator ON THE PLANET who has the balls to tell Romney to sit down and SHUT UP?!!! I am sick and tired of these spineless moderators just giving and and allowing Romney's boorish and spoiled behavior. Sheesh!

  • Jan on October 16, 2012 9:29 PM:

    Ed, Where is your blogging? I can't seem to find the thread...

  • Whitt on October 16, 2012 9:33 PM:

    Where is the live blog??

  • Big tuna on October 16, 2012 9:34 PM:

    Go tigers

  • VaLiberal on October 16, 2012 9:48 PM:

    I am tired of ex-governors saying they "balanced the budget" while governor. If this was required by state law, (1) it's nothing to brag about and (2) in the state of Virginia, for example, all state agency directors are held personally, financially responsible if his/her agency goes over budget. Mostly Bob McDonnell has told all the state employees that they MIGHT get a 3% bonus (not a raise, though) if the agencies collectively return a certain amount of money bsck to the state treasury. He's played that game pretty much every year in office, while experienced employees walk out the door.

  • becca bon on October 16, 2012 11:09 PM:

    Were you satisfied with the Obama/Romney debate? you should check out Democracy Now’s “Expanding The Debate” program tomorrow, when they host a 2-hour debate with three third party presidential candidates from 8-10am ET: Jill Stein of the Green Party; Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party; and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party

  • Anonymous on October 16, 2012 11:45 PM:

    My gut observation

    When Obama started off the first question of the night with that same style of milquetoast TV advertising rerun "answer" that got him labeled the big loser in the first debate my heart sank a little. Oh boy, here we go again. Then my heart leapt as I watched the gloves come off in the next question and Obama delivered a well placed rhetorical jab. THEN I watched in amazement a short while later as Romney strode right over to O in a confrontational posture. WTF was Romney thinking? I'll put this negro boy in his place? I half expected him to unzip and ask for a dick measuring contest right there (unwise against a black man anyway). Obama not only stood his ground but kept hitting Romney in the rhetorical gut all night.

    Bottom line take away. Romney's just like that obnoxious used car salesman who's trying to intimidate and pressure you into some really bad deal with his smarmyness.