As we approach the first Presidential debate, we know the deal: Mitt Romney might be the most grateful presidential candidate ever to have a chance to debate his opponent. Just to have a moment to sit next to President Obama and talk about anything other than what the election conversation has been for the past several weeks will be a welcome reprieve for the Republican challenger.
The topic is domestic policy, with a heavy dose expected on the economy, and the two men will be sitting side-by-side in director’s chairs responding to questions from Jim Lehrer of PBS. With that stage setup, don’t you think the President will want to make a joke about Clint Eastwood’s empty chair routine at some point?
By now you’ve heard both camps try to set expectations for you, and as soon as the debate ends you’ll hear the spin room experts explaining how you should feel about what you just saw. But in the end, you’re the only judges that matter. And people will be watching. More than 52 million Americans watched the first Obama/McCain debate four years ago according to Nielsen. About the same number is expected to tune into this week’s debate. Edelman strategists Steve Schmidt and Bob Shrum, who have spent many hours helping candidates prepare for these big moments, offer their thoughts on what to look for when the debate sparks start to fly.