There is nothing the media likes more than a good story, even if the story has to be exaggerated a bit. And the story the media will create tonight will be of Mitt Romney: The Other Comeback Kid.
News reports are already showing the media setting up expectations that tonight is Romney's night. Polls are tightening, Obama messages are changing, and Romney is gaining ground with new tactics. The headlines are everywhere.
Well, if Romney "loses" tonight's debate the race is effectively over. But the person who "wins" the debate is often determined by the media spin after. And it's in the media's best interest to ensure that Romney wins tonight.
The expectations for the president are sky high. Polls show him expected to win tonight's debate 2-1 and many in the country expect the president will win the election.
That sets the bar pretty low for Governor Romney, a bar that would be remarkable if he didn't meet. After all, he has spent most of the last month doing debate prep. And, lest we forget, he handily beat many his Republican opponents in many high-stakes debates.
For the last few weeks Romney has created a narrative of a losing campaign -- shifting from tactic to tactic, swing state polls that are breaking against him. But that story is getting old and the media needs something else to cover.
Comebacks and conflict -- perfect fodder for the 24-hour media cycle.
So you can expect the debate spin to show a Romney win. In fact, you can expect publications to say "Obama fails to deliver knockout blow" and commentators to note how "Romney hammered the president on the economy and showed empathy for the country's economic woes."
It doesn't matter if these things are really true.
What matters is the story. And the story the media needs is of a Romney comeback... no matter how exaggerated it is.