Boxing may not be the best metaphor for the nonviolent debates between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but regardless, the second round should be very interesting.
In the first round last week, Obama took a pounding–call it a welter of lies–from his opponent, seemingly content to do his rope-a-dope, hoping to wear Romney down with his defensive posture. That posture, which was a bit too timid and ineffective, according to his handlers, is being revamped, and we hear that Obama will match Romney blow for blow.
The second round in Hempstead, N.Y., at Hofstra University next Tuesday should be a real slugfest, and this time, Jim Lehrer will not be the moderator-cum-referee, replaced by CNN’s Cathy Crowley, with Big Bird acting as the 800-pound gorilla in the wings.
Nearly 70 million viewers watched the first round–or bout, choose your own ring analogy–and there’s speculation that even more will tune in for the rematch.
If part of Obama’s strategy was minimizing all the talk about his increasing lead in the polls, he achieved this, and now the race is looking much tighter. Only supporters of a lopsided victory are willing to stay through the duration of a contest. Of course, all this configures well for the media and its quest for a maximum number of eyeballs and ears.
Since the next encounter between the candidates will feature both domestic and foreign policy issues, Obama may have a decisive edge on the latter, though that was the thinking in their initial showdown.
During a recent television interview, David Axelrod, Obama’s chief adviser, admitted that Romney got the best of his man. “I know that President Obama is very much looking forward to seeing Governor Romney again,” he said. “He’s gotten a good look at the Romney routine and now we’ll have another engagement and I think it will be really interesting.”
Another plus for Obama will be the town hall venue, which has always provided him with an atmosphere in which to excel. Even so, he has to be mindful of being too confident or underestimating Romney.
As the great writer Ralph Waldo Ellison once noted, even a country hick can win with a lucky punch.
The preliminary bout between Vice President Joe Biden and Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday will give the main event additional ammo and insight, particularly on the economy and national security.
In a final ring analogy, can Obama’s team count on counting Romney out or will this just be another buildup to the final match? If Obama comes out on top, the third encounter will be the rubber match, and then we will see how the polls bounce for the contenders.