What Will Wednesday Look Like?
Anticipating the first night out.

The debate stage rises in Denver.


Mitt Romney must be firm and aggressive and take the offensive on President Obama’s record and not allow Obama to get away with distorting his own record or distorting Romney’s positions. Romney should call Obama out on his divisive race-baiting and class warfare. He should highlight Obamacare’s extraordinary costs and failure to provide coverage for tens of millions of people, contrary to Obama’s claims and promises. He should be relentless in attacking Obama’s economic record and his refusal to accept responsibility for his failed policies or to offer any new policies to turn the economy around. Romney should point out that this is the worst economic recovery in 50 years and the longest period of high unemployment for decades. He should press the president on his obstruction of entitlement reform and his refusal to put forward any plan of his own. In short, Romney should make the case that a second Obama term would result in national bankruptcy and a declining America. He should also hammer him for his war on domestic energy production and small businesses. Romney can be as cordial as he wants to be, but under no circumstances should he make John McCain’s mistake of suggesting that Obama will make a fine president and that our situation is not grave and urgent.

— David Limbaugh is author of The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic.


As has been said hundreds of times over the last week or so: There’s nothing like standing next to the president of the United States debating issues, presenting an alternative vision, to make one look presidential. Governor Romney gets that opportunity Wednesday and I’d hope that America tunes in to hear the message that he started to present when he spoke to the NAACP this summer – a message of good stewardship, and of a nation that respects the dignity of the individual in a flourishing civil society where dreams of upward mobility are not absurd. I’d love to hear the clarity he’s demonstrated on the campaign trail on the religious-freedom threat we face — and just who faces it: It’s Hobby Lobby and a lumber company and Wheaton College and the poorest kids in the poorest schools in the president’s backyard, not just Cardinal Dolan. I’d hope he can speak in no small way directly to those 2008 Obama voters who are disappointed, like the ones captured in the compelling documentary The Hope and the Change.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

I would love to see a statement of the obvious, which is not “the economy, stupid”; the obvious is “the economic policies.”

1. Obama did not inherit the worst recession or deficit in our history (see Reagan and WWII), and his economic policies have not only failed, they have made it worse (e.g., real income declined more than twice as much during the  recovery than during the recession; health care, food, and energy costs are up; retirement funds and equity security are down). Obama’s policies have been bad for job growth. Sixty percent of businesses are not hiring until uncertainty is eased over tax, regulatory, and health-care compliance and costs. And they’ve been bad for the national debt and deficits, the biggest drivers of economic duress (unprecedented, record-breaking deficits and debt have ballooned to $110,000 per family). Obama’s failed fiscal policies have incentivized equally harmful monetary policies, such as QE3.

2. Robust economic recovery is not only possible and could be immediate, it is happening today in states and cities implementing sound fiscal budget and reform policies. It has always has – e.g., the recoveries of the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s, and the 2000s were all the result of reducing the disincentives for productivity (higher tax rates), increasing incentives for investment, reducing the government-produced demonstrable drags on growth. History also shows that the deeper the recession, and the greater the economic crisis, the faster and higher the subsequent recovery. Growth and employment in the states that have implemented GOP growth policies (including in the states where 17 new governors took office just last year) is over twice the rate of the states that have raised taxes and increased spending (“stimulated”). 

Romney just has to be clear, consistent, and courageous, not lovable or funny. 

Romney should also lay down the framework for further discussion of how the Obama/progressive agenda has not just resulted in economic stagnation but moral and cultural degradation, from out-of-wedlock births, to a diminished work ethic among able-bodied people to illiterate high-school graduates to an exponential increase in dysfunctional behaviors among juveniles. 

As the Founders said, we cannot sustain a democracy without virtuous citizens.

— Mary Matalin served as assistant to the president and counselor to the vice president in George W. Bush’s administration.

Romney needs to do what his campaign should be doing every day — take a leaf from Reagan’s playbook:

1. Talk about the big picture of America — and paint the contrast between Obama’s philosophy of social engineering and  Romney’s vision of freedom and opportunity, which is the legacy of America from our Founders.
2. He needs to be strong and firm and proud about the fact that he has been wildly successful because of the opportunity America has afforded him and generations of Americans.

3. He needs not to be defensive about “the 47 percent” videotape. He needs to say, “You’re darned right I’m worried about that, because America has never been a country of dependency, and we are heading in a dangerous direction when half of our people are dependent upon the government.”

4. He needs not to get dragged down into the weeds on issues. He needs to keep bringing the argument back to principles and values. Like Reagan did.

The GOP convention was full of wonderful stories of American opportunity and the freedom we have to work hard and succeed. And yes, to fail, because you learn more from the ones you lose than the ones you win. But somehow the Romney campaign has stopped telling that story. And all Karl Rove’s group is doing is running ads about issues, and not principles or values.

This is a big election. If Romney makes it a clear choice about big values and fundamental principles, we win. If he allows Obama to make it about “small ball” — issues, not principles — we lose.

Seems pretty simple to me.

And one more thing: Mitt Romney needs to tell the American people who he is — that his dad didn’t go to college, and worked his way up from being a construction worker and painter to being the head of the company. Because in America, you can do that. And that what Romney’s parents gave him was a first-class education so he could have a better start in life than his dad. And he took that and worked hard and took risks and built a company that has made billions of dollars and created millions of jobs. And that is the America that we want — not one where people depend on the government to hand out food stamps and meager payments and have social workers coming into our homes to tell us how to live.

 Cleta Mitchell is a campaign-finance law attorney and partner in the Washington law office of Foley & Lardner.