Debates offer Mitt Romney a chance to change the campaign narrative

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: October 3, 2012
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DURING an interview last week, U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, compared the race for the presidency to that of the proverbial tortoise and hare, with Republican challenger Mitt Romney the tortoise.

“We've heard the same narrative all along, since the primaries,” Lankford said — the idea that Romney was the steady, methodical candidate in a field of more compelling GOP personalities. Yet it was Romney who emerged as the Republican choice. He's continued his workmanlike ways since then, but if polling is to be believed, it hasn't helped him pull ahead of President Barack Obama.

Lankford, for one, isn't concerned. “I don't think it's falling apart,” he said of the Romney campaign, which got its biggest boost seven weeks ago when Romney named U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan his running mate. “The debates will change the narrative again.”

The first of the three presidential debates is Wednesday night. Here's hoping that Lankford's prediction is on the money. With a strong performance in Round One, Romney could indeed gain momentum for the final weeks of the campaign.

Obama's record in office is abysmal — the stimulus, Obamacare, the exploding deficit, unemployment above 8 percent for 46 straight months, a continuing decline in Americans' real disposable income, anemic growth rate for the economy. Yet somehow he's polling well among voters in the swing states that will decide the Nov. 6 election.

The challenge for Romney during the debates will be to strike a chord with those voters. As columnist George Will points out, debates are “not good venues for explaining ... well, anything. And October is a time for summations to the jury, not new submissions of evidence.”

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