A tie goes to the president.
That’s the conclusion advanced Tuesday by several leading pundits who suggest just staving off an obvious defeat at the hands of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in tonight’s debate will put President Barack Obama in the winner’s circle.
“Folks,” talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh’s advised his listeners Tuesday, “if Obama shows up tonight and successfully breathes, he’s going to be declared the winner tomorrow.
“He would have to set his hair on fire and other things to be even considered the loser in the debate tonight. The media has already written the story: ‘The comeback kid!’ Just get ready for that.’”
Boston University communications professor and analyst Tobe Berkovitz anticipates evident bias from media pundits before, during, and after the debate.
“If it’s a tie, they will crow that Obama has achieved a victory by getting a tie,” Berkovitz says.
Conservatives appear to be bracing for a spate of post-debate stories touting the resurrection of the Obama campaign.
Radio host, author, and Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham told “Fox and Friends” Tuesday that President Obama “can sit there playing Angry Birds on his iPhone and I think they’ll go, ‘Oh wow, masterful performance.’”
Romney appears to face an uphill climb given the expectations game. A Politico.com report said Romney “needs to match his previous showing without having the benefit of surprising the media and viewers.”
In an appearance on "Daily Rundown” with MSNBC host Chuck Todd, Bloomberg columnist and author Jonathan Alter stated Tuesday that Obama will probably win the election if he fights former Massachusetts Gov. Romney to a draw in the Tuesday night debate.
“The next 36 hours will be the most important, most pivotal point in this campaign,” said Alter. “Essentially, if the president is strong, and either … so-called ‘wins’ the debate, or even has a draw where both sides say their guy won, I think he’ll go on to consolidate his support in the battleground states, he grinds it out and probably wins this election.
“On the other hand, if he loses the debate, if even his own people, like the last time, think he lost, I think he’s going to have a hard time winning this election,” he added.
“Morning Joe” co-host Willie Geist referred to the apparent double-standard during an interview Tuesday morning with Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halperin, stating: "Let’s be honest, some members, many members perhaps, of the media [are] poised to say he’s back, this is a redemption story: ‘He had a bad first night, he’s back, he’s done it, he’s back in the command of this race.’”
Expectations often become the measuring stick by which commentators assess candidates’ performances during post-debate coverage. In some previous presidential races, the post-debate spin has had a powerful influence on voters’ perceptions.
But many analysts and observers dispute whether the “comeback kid” motif will faze voters much, given President Obama’s much-criticized performance in the first presidential debate.
Berkovitz predicts a draw won’t be enough to shift the momentum in Obama’s direction, regardless of the post-debate spin.
“That would sort of leave the race as is, which leaves Romney still standing… This (Oct. 3) debate gave Romney’s campaign real life, and a tie would not take that away from the Romney campaign,” says Berkovitz.
Former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell agrees a deadlocked outcome won’t be enough to reverse President Obama’s slumping trajectory in the polls.
“Look, Obama can fight Romney off to a tie, but that isn’t going to change the flow of the campaign for Obama if history is any judge,” Blackwell tells Newsmax. “Obama cannot win this debate, because I actually think the town hall format will turn the discussion to Obama’s promises made and promises broken.
“Because what we’re going to hear are real stories from some of the 23 million Americans who want meaningful jobs who are facing underemployment and unemployment. And so style, which is something the president prides himself on, won’t be enough.”
The big danger Romney must avoid, according to Blackwell, is any indication he is out of touch with the concerns of everyday Americans.
“The only serious lift the president can receive from this debate would be caused by a failure of Gov. Romney to make a human connection with the audience” says Blackwell. “For Romney in this debate, style is king,”
The town hall-style debate, which will be moderated by CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, begins at 9 p.m. Eastern. The debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., with questions primarily coming from an audience of 80 undecided voters who were selected by the Gallup polling organization.
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