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10 Things to Expect at the First Presidential Debate


When Romney picked House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, Democrats salivated at the chance to frighten the reliable senior electorate with charges that coverage would be incinerated. Republicans vowed to remind the nation of the scaremongering pushing-granny-over-a-cliff-by-Ryan-doppelganger campaign against entitlement reform waged against the congressman's Path to Prosperity. Granted, this face-off will be most pronounced in the vice presidential debate -- Ryan vs. Joe Biden, who has been stressing at every campaign stop how Ryan's reforms would have hurt his old mum. But Obama will also be trying Romney for the Ryan plan, and this is likely comprising a large chunk of Romney's Portman prep.

Fair's fair

What you might not hear so much as in campaign stumps past is the word "fair" -- there's a new definition of redistribution in town. "What I want to promote is a new economic patriotism, one that’s rooted in the belief that we grow the economy best when everybody has got a shot and the middle class is thriving," Obama told the campaign audience in Las Vegas. White House press secretary Jay Carney first said it at Thursday's gaggle aboard Air Force One, and Obama used the "economic patriotism" phrase at campaign events Thursday in Virginia Beach and Friday at the Capital Hilton in Washington. Same concept, but Obama has edited his own F-word for national audience, middle of the road, flag-waving consumption.

Political dentistry

"The path I’m offering may be harder, but it leads to a better place," Obama said last night, echoing a rhetorical turn that's accompanied "economic patriotism." It may not be the most positive debate message: grin, bear it, grab on to something, grimace, and ride through the pain to those second-term promises. But Obama's message will be that taking the pain is the economically patriotic thing to do. "So no matter how hard the path may seems sometimes, the path I’m offering leads to a better place," he told the Virginia Beach crowd.

A lack of barn-busters

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went the opposite of the "downplay your chances" mantra with a superconfident spree on the Sunday talk shows. "Wednesday night is the restart of this campaign and I think you're going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction," he said on NBC's Meet the Press. But don't hold your breath for the "I paid for this microphone" moment at which the nation stands and cheers and droves convert. Twitter will decide in a matter of seconds what the best and worst lines were, and the candidates will be at the mercy of social-media crucifixion. But stunning game-changers are not expected.


Obama and Romney hate each other. These mutual daggers will ooze into living rooms across America for three nights in October. Not to say that Biden and Ryan are best friends, but they both have a down-to-earth congeniality that doesn't come across as sheer, unremitting disgust for one's political opponent. In the Republican primary debates, depending on who was leading in the polls that week, Romney would turn to Santorum or Cain or Gingrich with a bemused, condescending look on his face when his challenger was speaking. But he's met his smug debate match: Think back to Obama telling Hillary Clinton "you're likable enough," then going back to his notes-jotting.