‘Take A Punch From The Left’ And Other Things Romney Needs To Do In The Debates

Mitt Romney’s aides aren’t even bothering with the usual game of lowering expectations for their candidate ahead of his Oct. 3 debate in Denver. With President Obama solidifying leads in almost every battleground state, Romney needs a dominant performance to change the dynamic, and everyone knows it.

Assuming Obama maintains his polling edge, his debate checklist is clear: hold his own against Romney’s attacks and avoid any major missteps. Romney’s path is much more complex and varied. Here are a few of the boxes he needs to check off in a successful matchup.

• Fire Up Early Voters

Sure Romney’s in rough shape, but the only poll that matters is on Nov. 6, right? Wrong. The debates aren’t just a preview to Election Day, they actually come just as voters hit the polls in key states.

“The first debate is key because Iowa and Ohio will open early voting [in] the week before,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told TPM. “And those are two states he’s really got his eye on on the way to 270. Clearly he’s behind the eight ball in Ohio, but even if he wins Ohio, Florida and Virginia he sill needs another state — and the question is then does it become Iowa, New Hampshire or Colorado?”

As a result, the debates may offer Romney his last best chance to convince voters he’s the only candidate who can turn the economy around.

Read more from Benjay Sarlin and Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPM

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Analysis & Political Strategy