Barack Obama has a number of advantages going into tomorrow’s night’s foreign policy debate. The first one is that Mitt Romney knows absolutely nothing about foreign policy. If Obama can steer the conversation into a difficult area, there’s a decent chance that his opponent will say something stupid. Romney has none of George W. Bush’s humility. Bush didn’t know much either, and he had only a passing familiarity with the English language, but he rarely made a gaffe. His talking points were his binky, and he suckled them daily. But Romney is probably arrogant enough to wing it and insult the British again.
The tightness of the race provides another Obama advantage. Romney spent months rehearsing his domestic policy lies for the first debate, but now he finds himself having to spew those lies at a frantic pace on the campaign trail, leaving precious little time to practice his foreign policy lies. Again, more opportunities for a gaffe.
Thirdly, Obama can make Romney pay the price for running as an empty suit. If Romney won’t offer anything substantive to back up his bellicose rhetoric, then Obama needs to fill in the blanks by morphing him into — you guessed it — George W. Bush. This shouldn’t be very hard, considering that Romney’s foreign policy team is a who’s who of Bush retreads. Two wars in one decade is quite enough. The voters don’t want another one.
Finally, the sit-down format for this debate is very good for Obama. This is the same format that allowed Joe Biden to get in Paul Ryan’s face every time that little weasel went Pinocchio. Romney’s lies are sure to come fast and furious tomorrow, and Obama needs to counter them. In addition, I see an elevated “squirm factor” if Romney can’t run around the stage gesticulating and mugging for the camera. Mitt Romney is a sociopath, but nobody can lie as much as he does much without subconsciously wondering if he’s going to get caught. When Romney is effectively strapped down, it will be easier for Obama to rattle him.
So I disagree with those who say this debate isn’t important. Barack Obama has a golden opportunity for a big win, as long as he doesn’t take his foot off Mitt Romney’s neck.