A Throwdown at the Townhall?
Jonathan Chait points out the potential pitfall in the emergence of a new more aggressive President Obama at the next debate:
The next debate is a town-hall meeting. Obama’s campaign is talking up its plan to roll out a new, tougher Obama who will challenge Romney’s slick evasions. But a town-hall meeting is a whole different animal. In a one-on-one debate, you can fillet your opponent. A town-hall meeting consists of undecided voters pressing the candidates for answers. The focus of the event is on answering the questions of the voters. Using their questions to assail your opponent is bad form — indeed, the Regular Voters who ask the questions, and serve as proxies for the public, can be counted on to implore the candidates to stop attacking each other so much. Romney will use the town hall to proclaim his deep and abiding concern for all of America, and Obama will have little chance to disprove it.
I would be shocked if Obama’s not better at the next debate, but there’s a risk to him of repeating Al Gore’s experience in 2000. Gore got wrong-footed in the first debate and ended up adopting three different personas in the three different debates. None of those personas quite worked. He compensated for being too rude in the first debate by being too docile in the second and then compensated for that by being too aggressive in the third.