After the first presidential debate, which gave Romney a four-point bounce, nobody is doubting the debates' importance. But as we ready for tonight's round two, I'm wondering: What exactly are the debates teaching us about the candidates? As they're presently constituted, they don't give an accurate idea of what a candidate might be like as a president. Take the prohibition on notes -- when is a sitting president ever going to be faced with a situation in which he's going to need to make an important decision without availing himself of any outside information? It's fun to see how a candidate responds to a zinger, but it'd be much more instructive to see how a candidate goes about seeking information that he doesn't know. So what about at least one debate that is structured to resemble the decision-making process a president would actually go through in office?
Romney and Obama have each muddled their views -- but Romney does it in a way that helps him, while Obama's muddling helps the Republicans. Let me explain. Romney began as an old fashioned moderate Republican, then had to reinvent himself to win the support of his party's right-wing base. And then in the general election, he feinted back towards the center but without disavowing his new-found conservatism. So he is now trying to be all things to all people.