The one-on-one dynamic: In The Princess Bride, one of the Fixs all-time favorite movies, Andre the Giant plays a henchman named Fezzik. When faced with fighting a single person after years of battling groups of men all at once (he was Andre the Giant, after all), Fezzik struggles. You use different moves when youre fighting half a dozen people than when you only have to be worried about one, he explains.
Romney has spent his entire debate life in his career as a national politician debating on stage with a group of people, most of whom were trying to gang up on him. Obamas most recent debate experience, on the other hand, comes from his three general election debates against McCain and, before that, a one-on-one debate with then-New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary.
Debating like fightingone person is different than doing it against a group. Lets see how Romney adjusts.
And the group Romney fought was pretty lame. Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry? None of them hold a candle to Obama’s intellect and poise.
But Romney has other problems as well. While the conventional wisdom is that he simply needs to exceed expectations (so if he sets expectations really low, he wins no matter what), we’re way past that at this point. Romney needs to take Obama down and out in that first debate this coming Wednesday, and it’s not entirely clear how he does that.
Romney will certainly want to focus on the economy, but of course, polls are showing that consumer confidence is increasing as people’s outlook on the economy improves. So it’s not clear the economic message works any more, or at least works sufficiently.
The economy isn’t key for Romney, looking presidential is. He has to come off as a viable alternative to the sitting president, and then some. Up until now, Romney’s come off rather Keystone Cops-ish, not ready for prime time. And if past is prologue, Romney doesn’t react well when he’s attacked during a debate. He gets all prickly, and prissy. That $10,000 bet comes to mind.
People already think Romney is a bit of an ass and a buffoon. Perhaps the buffoon part isn’t hard to overcome in a debate (assuming the man isn’t as daft as he often appears), but once people think you’re an ass, it’s not something you live down easily. Even flip-flopping endlessly on health care reform may not be enough to convince the people to love the man who knew too little.
FEZZIK: I just feared you would give me so much trouble.
THE MAN IN BLACK: Why is that, do you think?
FEZZIK: Well, I haven’t fought just one person for so long … [struggling] … I’ve been specializing in groups – fighting gangs for local charities, that kind of thing.
THE MAN IN BLACK: Why should that make such a … difference?
FEZZIK: [Slowing down] You see, you use different moves when you’re fighting half a dozen people, than when you only have to worry about one.
FEZZIK falls to the ground, unconscious. THE MAN IN BLACK checks to see if he is still alive.
THE MAN IN BLACK: I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But in the meantime, rest well and dream of large women.