Romney can’t play prevent defense tonight, but has to pick his spots

Mitt Romney has surged ahead in the polls with a late charge with election day two weeks away. No presidential candidate has even been over 50% in the Gallup poll this late in the race and lost.

Real Clear Politics has shifted the national electoral edge to Romney and the latest polls in swing states like Ohio show the Republican ticket grows stronger by the day.

Democrats said they’d won the town hall debate, although it seems much closer to a draw than MSNBC and Mother Jones would have you believe, particularly with Romney winning all of his key issues by wide margins.

By any measure, even a leftist one, the presidential race is as close or closer than the 2004 race, and there’s even talk of a split election like 2000, where one candidate wins the electoral college count, but not the popular vote.

With Monday Night Football and a Game 7 in the NLCS both on tonight, I’m not convinced the debate will have a major impact on the race unless one of the candidates lays the proverbial goose egg (which is certainly in play after the stinker Obama laid in the first debate).

In order to keep his slim lead, Mitt Romney needs to remain the Mitt Romney he’s been for the last month or so: firm, clear, respectful and congenial.

After watching the town hall debate, I’m not sure Libya is a winning issue for Romney, although it should be. Either way, I think it’s going to blow up in President Obama’s face (Remember, the Watergate scandal happened before Nixon was re-elected).

On the other hand, in order to catch Obama in the lie, Romney will have to parse his words and insist the administration lied with no evidence to support it.

Obama can simply say “That’s not true,” and claim the Republicans are politicizing this tragedy as they politicized the debt ceiling negotiations for example (which they kind of did).

Is there a large number of people out there who would like Mitt Romney to say, ‘President Obama stood in front of the coffins of slain American servicemen and continued to lie about how they died,’? Absolutely there are.

But it’s hardly presidential for Mitt Romney to go there and that is a key characteristic for people watching. If you look at the candidate and you can’t picture him as president, then how can you vote for him?

Romney has, so far, passed that test with pretty flying colors.

What he can’t afford to do is play a prevent defense. He has to continue to attack the president for his economic failures and defend the people who still aren’t better off thanks the stifling policies of Obama and the Democrats in Congress.

There are plenty of places to hit Obama where it hurts, on the deficit, the debt, the economy and even health care where Romney scored a victory last week.

More people believe Mitt Romney is best qualified to handle the major issues facing Americans.

Let Obama talk about abortion and Planned Parenthood. He’s not winning independent voters with that type of highly partisan rhetoric. That’s for his base because he knows he needs a 2008-style turnout to win and can’t afford to see Democrats lose support so drastically as they did in 2010.

Romney doesn’t have to be as aggressive as he was in the first debate, but has to be at least as assertive and firm as he was in the second debate.

It’s isn’t the GOP’s need to have a game-changing moment tonight, it’s the Democrats, but that means Mitt Romney has to stay on message, stay on the attack, but do it in a way that doesn’t undermine his credibility and compassion.

Six months ago I would have been dubious of his chances to pull that off. After seeing what Romney is capable of the last six weeks, it seems likely that is exactly who we will see tonight.

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