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Pres. Obama Has Only One Option at Tuesday's Debate: Step Up His Game, Says Nationally Renowned Debate Expert

Released: 10/12/2012 5:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Columbus State University
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Gov. Mitt Romney’s resounding win in the first presidential debate has left incumbent President Barack Obama with but one option: Step up his game, says a nationally renowned debate expert.

The president’s unsteady performance in Denver has made it imperative that Obama give an appreciably stronger showing Oct. 16 at Hofstra University, says David J. Lanoue, Columbus State University political science professor and co-author of The Joint Press Conference: The History, Impact, and Prospects of American Presidential Debates.

“Mitt Romney's surprisingly strong showing in his first debate with President Obama has significantly raised the stakes for their next meeting,” Lanoue said. “Romney took control of the debate almost from the start, and the president spent most of the evening playing defense. As a result, Romney came off sounding more presidential than the incumbent himself.

“Obama needs a far more assertive performance in the second debate. He needs to find a persuasive way to defend himself against Romney's attacks, and he has to probe his opponent's weaknesses more effectively than he has so far. The president has never really debated from a position of weakness before, and he has never shown any real aggressiveness in facing his opponent, whether Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or, now, Mitt Romney.”

Lanoue, who argued prior to Denver that President Obama was “an overrated debater,” says the story of the second debate will be whether or not the president can match Romney blow-for-blow, and whether he can do it in the more intimate context of a town hall debate.

“But one thing is certain,” Lanoue said. “It would be unwise for President Obama to allow a repeat of the first debate.”

Lanoue has published extensively on the topics of U.S. presidential elections and public opinion. The former chair of political science at the University of Alabama, he earned his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1986. He is now dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at Columbus State University.

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