Tonight’s format will be Sunday-show style, with both candidates seated at a table with moderator Jim Lehrer. There is even time set aside for genuine give-and-take between the contenders.
But I think the table is a mistake for Mitt Romney.
When a President appears on a Sunday show, typically the host goes to the White House to conduct the interview. This is how it should be. For President Obama to come to the debate and sit down doesn’t detract from his stature in this case, because everyone already knows he’s the President, and after all this is a presidential debate.
But the format does nothing to elevate Romney to presidential stature. The challenger comes in seeming smaller, because the incumbent already has the podium and the plane and the limo and all the rest. We expect to see our President behind a podium looking presidential — but we won’t see Romney doing that on the night of his first one-on-one with the man we’ve seen do just that a million times.
If I may quote Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”