The first debate is just days away. Democrat and Republican strategists alike have been furiously spinning the other sides' verbal mastery in a highly calculated effort to lower the bar for their guy. President Obama simply needs to maintain the status quo; his comfortable lead in the national polls and in swing states and his overall popularity. Romney needs a game-changer. A "big and bold performance," as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said over the weekend.
To be sure, for Obama and Romney the stakes are extremely high. Obama must convince voters that he's the better of the two candidates to continue driving the economic recovery. Romney must coherently demonstrate that he's the viable alternative, laying out the specifics of his plan to lead America back to prosperity.
Here are some suggestions for the president:
1. Be a strong, convincing, inspiring leader not a dull, pedantic professor
2. Keep your answers brief and speak in language that the average voter can understand
3. Don't get mired in minutiae; resist using too many statistics
4. Watch the body language. Eye-rolling, head-shaking, sighs, smirks and cackles can kill a campaign
5. Stay calm, cool and collected. Let Romney be the one who comes off animated, plaintive, erratic, rushed and desperate
6. Don't be snarky and elitist. That too is Romney's job
7. Know your facts and convey them forcefully, clearly and concisely
8. Be sure to make your critical "Are you better off..." case confidently and convincingly
9. Smile...a lot. That's one of your greatest assets and why a majority of Americans like you
10. Stay positive and sound reassuring. Romney's Chicken Little routine will be enough negativity for voters. Remember, Americans by nature are optimistic and do see your economic progress. Reinforce that progress and the better days ahead
11. Draw as many parallels as you can between ObamaCare and RomneyCare. It will disarm Romney, box him into a corner and strip him of one of his major campaign themes
12. Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. Play to the Democrats' and your strength on this extremely critical issue for seniors
13. Be careful when discussing social issues such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage. While most Americans (Republicans and independents included) really don't care who does what to their bodies and with whom, it's still a minefield that should be respected
14. Don't appear defensive, don't raise your voice, and never, ever get angry. Americans don't like or want an angry president.
15. Be presidential. You're the one in the Oval Office. Commander in Chief. Leader of the Free World. You're the one who must be responsible, engaged, disciplined, restrained, sensitive, dignified and diplomatic. Let Romney continue to show irresponsibility, impulsiveness, political opportunism and a lack of empathy.