Pressure on Obama in debate rematch

Updated: 2012-10-17 07:52

By Agencies in Williamsburg, Virginia and Washington (China Daily)

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Pressure on Obama in debate rematch

President vows to put up more of a fight after poor showing in first faceoff

With his hopes of a second term under threat, US President Barack Obama will seek to summon fresh energy on Tuesday to thwart Mitt Romney's momentum in their crucial second debate.

Republican Romney's assured performance in the first encounter two weeks ago in Denver, and Obama's own lifeless showing, dented the president's polling numbers, leaving the race effectively tied 21 days before the election.

Obama has admitted he had a "bad night" in Denver on Oct 3. Another one at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, would be deeply damaging and significantly increase his chances of suffering the historic stigma of a one-term presidency.

The pressure is on Obama, who has vowed to put up more of a fight in an effort to overcome his lackluster, momentum-stalling performance in the candidates' first debate.

Obama still hangs on to small leads in many of the nine key swing states that likely will determine which man occupies the White House on Inauguration Day, Jan 20.

Romney will likewise need to turn in a repeat of his strong showing in the initial face-to-face-confrontation, a performance which propelled him into a virtual tie in nationwide polling.

Romney must prove that his surprisingly assured showing in Denver was not a fluke and faces a higher bar of expectations, as his aides busily talk up prospects of an Obama comeback in hopes of managing post-debate news coverage.

Obama has been largely out of sight since Saturday, when he flew to the historic colonial-era city of Williamsburg, Virginia, for an intense debate camp, lent added importance by his limp 90-minute stumble in Denver.

Aides promise a more aggressive and energetic Obama will show up on Tuesday, and have signaled the president will challenge what he calls Romney's "extreme makeover" of sharply conservative positions to woo moderate swing voters.

"Mitt Romney will say and do anything, regardless of whether it's true, to become president," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

An Obama advertisement released on Monday highlighted what his campaign calls the "Real Romney", contrasting previous positions on abortion, student loans, cutting taxes for the richest US citizens, Iraq and immigration.

In a positive ad airing in battleground states, US citizens from "Main Street" offered testimony on an improving economy.

"Stick with this guy, he will move us forward," one man says in the ad.

After a dismal stretch where the unemployment rate remained above 8 percent across Obama's term, the number fell to 7.8 percent in the latest report for September. That is coupled with an improving housing market, increasing consumer confidence and growing numbers of US voters who tell polling organizations that they believe the US is headed in the right direction.

Obama has spent many months and millions of dollars arguing Romney does not care about the middle class. On Tuesday, he faces pressure to prove it, before an audience of voters in the town hall-style debate.

CNN's Candy Crowley will moderate the showdown, with questions on domestic and foreign policy posed by about 80 undecided likely voters selected by polling group Gallup.

Some analysts have speculated that the more collegial setting could hamper Obama's efforts to challenge Romney more aggressively than in Denver.

But the president's camp thinks Obama comes across as more likeable and at ease with everyday Americans than Romney, a wealthy former venture capitalist.

The Romney camp has tried to manage heightened expectations.

"President Obama is going to have a better night than he had at the first debate," Romney's spokesman Ryan Williams said, adding that the US leader was likely to "come out swinging with dishonest and negative attacks".

"If the president chooses to attack governor Romney throughout the debate it will simply be another failed chance for him to lay out any kind of rationale or justification for his second term."

In the first clash, Obama mystified Democrats with a poor defense of his White House term and failed to frame a compelling vision of why he deserves a second.

Avoiding Romney's eye and lacking passion, Obama put in one of the weakest showings since the first televised presidential debate in 1960.


(China Daily 10/17/2012 page12)