The Bill Clinton moment:
President Bill Clinton excelled during town hall debates when he was running for President. He was way more personal than incumbent George H.W. Bush.
Think: I feel your pain.
Here’s one example from 1992. Watch how President Bush responds to a question. Then see how Clinton answers the same question. He walks over towards the crowd, makes eye contact with the woman who asked the question and gives a much more personal and compelling answer. He nailed it. There’s no doubt Clinton’s performance here helped him get elected.
For President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, channeling President Clinton could prove to be a challenge. Obama is known for giving great speeches, not for his interpersonal communication. Romney is often seen as some sort of rich, stiff, Republican Ken-doll robot. Whoever can shake their image and have a Clinton moment will win this debate.
President Barack Obama’s chief advisor, David Axelrod, said he expects the President to be more ‘aggressive’ during tonight’s debate.
It will be interesting to see just how aggressive Obama gets because aggressiveness doesn’t work well during the town hall format. The President can’t mirror Joe Biden’s performance from last week. It would turn voters off.
To be effective, Obama will have to call out Romney on his ever changing positions and answer voter questions clearly and concisely. At the same time he has to appear personal and care about the undecided voters concerns.
The big question is can he find that balance?
Gov. Mitt Romney is looking to maintain his momentum in this second debate. Polls continue to show the race tightening in key swing states; some even have him ahead.
But, Romney faces the same challenge Obama does. Can he find a balance between attacking the President on his record and dispelling the image that he’s rich and out of touch?
Will Gov. Romney approach the undecided voters, look them in the eye and answer their questions like President Clinton did?
If he wants to maintain the momentum he better.
Social media will play a huge role tonight. The media is obsessed with it. So much so that Facebook, and even more importantly, Twitter, will drive the main media coverage Wednesday morning.
Most major news sites will feature headlines that read, ‘Best Tweets from the Debate,’ or ’25 Funniest Tweets about the Debate.’
Look back to the first debate. When Romney said, ‘I love Big Bird,’ Twitter exploded. And that’s exactly what people talked about. It’s even spawned a Million Muppet March on Washington. Thousands tweeted about Vice President Joe Biden’s smirks, laughter and pearly white teeth. That, too, became the talk last week.
The lesson is clear: what’s said on Twitter tonight will become the main talking point on Wednesday.
There’s a lot at play tonight. And this debate could help decide whether it’s four more years of Obama or whether Mitt Romney becomes the nation’s 45th President.
Rob Hunter is Bruce St. James’ sidekick between 9-12n and also co-hosts Rob & Mark here on KTAR.