First of all, if you believe the polls, the presidential race is supposed to be brutally tight right now. At least one respected pollster disagrees, predicting an Obama presidency for four more years. But in general, it's assumed that, if you care at all about who lives in the White House (and you should), getting out on Election Day is gonna be extra, super-duper crucial with sugar on top. For everybody.
In that vein, each side of the ticket needs to rally not only undecided voters but also their bases, the people who are solidly in one camp or another but may forget to cast a ballot on Nov. 6.
That includes young voters, the types who are, according to pollsters, more likely to vote for Obama. Just because so many of them are in the blue camp doesn't mean they're a lock—not if they don't vote. And that's why skin-tight ballot dresses and viral videos about zombies might actually make a real difference on Election Day.
"Viral videos tend to work for the youth vote, ages 18 to 29, because social media tends to have a greater impact on their everyday lives," political consultant Ford O'Connell tells me. "In President Obama's case this is a demographic he needs to show up in large numbers on Election Day, particularly in the battleground states."
Republican candidates' controversial statements could cost their party Senate control, much as they did in 2010.
Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's (R) recent remark on rape and abortion is just the latest misstep for him. While it's still unclear how much the comment will hurt his campaign, earlier gaffes accounted for the reason he was struggling in the first place.
Mourdock joins Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who torpedoed his campaign with comments that "legitimate rape" rarely leads to pregnancy, as the two candidates most likely to cost the GOP control in a closely divided Senate because of controversial statements.
Democrats are comparing the two to 2010 GOP Senate nominees Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, whose campaigns cost their party a chance at Senate control — and some Republicans agree.
"Never underestimate the GOP's ability to step in it at the most inopportune time. This is what happened in 2010, too," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill, referring to the missteps of Mourdock and Akin. "This has the potential to cost the party control of the Senate."
President Barack Obama won the foreign policy debate last night in Boca Raton, Fla. He pressed the advantage of incumbency effectively—he knows precisely what went into every decision made over the last four years because he made them. Only Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta could've stood a chance.
But at the same time, Fox News's Chris Wallace had it right: If you knew nothing about American politics, and you tuned into last night's debate, Wallace said, you would have thought Mitt Romney was the incumbent protecting a lead and President Obama was a desperate challenger trying to score points any way possible.
Romney's primary goal was not so much to win as to pass thecommander in chief test. He needed to not allow the president to portray him as a warmonger or international cowboy. He needed to present a sensible, coherent plan to keep America strong and safe, and he did.
So, advantage President Obama last night; advantage Romney for the debate season as a whole. Will it matter November 6? It's unclear. But if you live in Ohio, let's just say you'll have a lot of chances to see the president over the next two weeks.
Mitt Romney passed the “commander in chief” test by presenting a sensible, coherent plan to keep America strong and safe, and by not allowing President Obama to portray him as a warmonger or international cowboy. On that front, mission accomplished! The question now is: Can Romney win Ohio?
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell: “Romney has one job tonight: To make voters, who are more far more concerned with domestic issues, comfortable with the idea of Romney as Commander-in-Chief. Look for Obama to counter by portraying Romney as an international cowboy.”
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell: “After 30-minute mark, Obama came out swinging and Romney deflected well. The longer the foreign policy debate focuses on domestic issues, the better off Romney is.”
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell: “President Obama keeps trying to set traps for Romney, but Romney is smart not to take the bait. By stressing global stability, a strong domestic economy and holding America’s adversaries accountable, Romney is doing what is necessary to succeed in this debate. One of Romney’s strongest lines of the night: ‘Attacking me is not an agenda.’”
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell: “President Obama tried to rough up Romney, and Romney stood his ground and looked presidential. Strong closing by Romney, he passed the Commander-in-Chief test.”
It started off as a foreign policy debate, but domestic issues soon took center stage at the third and final presidential debate Monday, an event that showcased fewer fireworks and much tamer exchanges between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, who are running virtually neck-and-neck in the campaign's final two weeks.
Romney and Obama, who went after each other aggressively in their showdown last week, took very different approaches Monday and it said much about how each views the race.
Unlike the earlier debates, Monday's produced no clear winner, allowing both sides to claim victory.
"Romney's primary job was to make Americans comfortable with the idea of Romney as commander-in-chief," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Washington Examiner. "On that front, mission accomplished. Romney looked and sounded presidential. Obama came out swinging and Romney deflected well."
Tonight's final debate should be fought on President Barack Obama's turf. He has the experience—presidents conduct foreign policy; corporate chieftains, even those at the top of the heap, do not. And he has the record—Osama bin Laden is dead, in case you haven't heard.
But there also is much in that record with which challenger Mitt Romney can take issue when he meets the president on the stage at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. He can take another shot at the president's dissembling on the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He can discuss China, the Middle East, Iran, Israel, and immigration.
But Romney must keep one goal in mind: His job tonight is not to deliver memorable haymakers. It is not even, in a sense, to "win" the debate. It is to show an American public far more focused on domestic policy that they can trust him to do a credible, consistent job on the one issue presidents handle primarily alone—and, if he can, to show President Obama has not succeeded.
How does he accomplish this? By stressing five key points.
Monday night’s third and final presidential debate will be the latest opportunity for Mitt Romney to again use the Etch A Sketch that his campaign hinted at months ago.
The Republican nominee has taken advantage of the presidential debates and the giant television audiences they attract to change some stances, soften some positions and generally make the case that he is not the “severely conservative” candidate he appeared to be in the primary contests.
Some of the fall campaign’s Etch A Sketch moments include: Mr. Romney now calls for boosting Pell Grant funding — a reversal of his criticism of President Obama’s increases. Also, Mr. Romney now says there are parts of the national health care law that are worth keeping. He also has indicated more leeway on legalizing young illegal immigrants and has tried to assure voters that he will not lower the tax burden on the wealthy or be a crusader on abortion.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell agreed, saying that Mr. Romney is trying to woo single-issue voters and to narrow Mr. Obama’s lead among the coalition of voters — women, Hispanic and young voters — that propelled the Democrat to victory four years ago.
“The president wants to make this a demographics election, but by keeping his original stances and moderating them a bit, Romney is trying to break apart the president’s coalition,” Mr. O’Connell said. “It is actually very smart, because what Romney is basically saying is, ‘I can’t win this election with voters by just touting the economy or just doing well with men over 35 years old.’”
The 2012 presidential race, once viewed as a dreary grind of a contest, has picked up a surprising amount of intensity this month.
Just a few weeks ago, the race was perhaps most remarkable for how unremarkable it was.
Throughout 2012, Obama predicted the race would have its ups and downs. But through the Republican and Democratic conventions, polls consistently showed the president with single-digit leads, and it appeared Romney might not ever capture momentum.
But Mitt Romney's spirited performance in the first presidential debate has injected new life not just into his White House aspirations, but the campaign as a whole. Recent weeks have seen a flood of support at campaign rallies and events, major upticks in donations to the campaigns, and a new electricity to a once joyless 2012 campaign.
Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says the change in enthusiasm can be simplified down to one simple change: voters actually believe Romney can win the election.
"Americans like winners," O'Connell said. "There is no better cure for a lack of enthusiasm than instilling the belief in voters that a candidate can win."
When they step onto the debate stage in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday for their third and final debate, President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will be talking about foreign affairs even as they make one last push to win over a national audience more concerned about the economy and jobs.
Monday's debate will be a tiebreaker of sorts for the two presidential candidates. Romney clearly dominated their first meeting on Oct. 3, and while Republicans insist Romney also held his own in their second standoff last week, most analysts credit Obama with finally showing the energy and assertiveness his supporters have been demanding.
Now running virtually even, Obama and Romney will both be looking for a breakaway moment in a debate that effectively shifts the conversation away from the race's main focus. Instead of talking about the economy, they will be asked about global affairs.
Obama may have given Romney additional ammunition on the issue when, during an appearance on Comedy Central's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" last week, he described the four American deaths as "not optimal." Obama drew an immediate rebuke from the mother of one of the men killed.
"The whole 'optimal' comment removes the likability factor here" for Obama, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "What Romney is really trying to fight to overcome here is the perception that Obama is strong on foreign policy."