Fighting over the ‘persuadables’

Stakes are especially high for Obama: one more bad debate and it could be all but over for him.

I have to say once again, I don’t know why anyone would want to be the president of the United States.

I really can’t imagine.

The job itself would be beyond stressful, but getting re-elected?

Since I’m currently on Long Island waiting for the next presidential debate, I’ll use a colloquial term from the New York area – “fuggedaboutit!”

As I write this, President Barack Obama is holed up in a luxury resort in Williamsburg, Virginia, preparing to confront his Republican opponent Mitt Romney again.

His advisers say they are taking the pre-debate preparations a little more seriously this time.

While he was prepping for his last debate, the president took a break to tour the Hoover dam.

The dam is an impressive sight, but about 10 minutes into the first debate I thought to myself: Perhaps Obama should have focused more on keeping his job, and not on the tourist sites of the American West.

Roundly panned

After the first debate, Obama’s performance was roundly panned.

Even the most supportive pundits in the US news media could not find a sound bite to highlight as a good moment.

It’s never a good sign when you end a debate saying “I promised I wouldn’t be a perfect president”.

His performance cost him and it continues to affect his campaign’s momentum, according to several national polls.

His lead in some critical swing states has narrowed considerably, and actually reversed itself in others.

If you believe the people who study these things, the candidates are fighting over about five per cent of the voting public – the “persuadables.”

This country is divided, and the voting turnout could reflect that.

Both parties hope to count on their bases to turn out and vote, guaranteeing that every national election will be decided by the middle, that five per cent, those “persuadables”.

And with three weeks left to go, those people are starting to tune in and make their decisions.

Does this debate matter?

If a candidate can actually lure them to the polls, their votes could prove decisive. But it seems more likely that Obama and Romney will split the votes of the five per cent as well.

So why, you might be asking, does this debate matter?

In my opinion it matters because this election will be determined by enthusiasm.

This is not a country where your neighbours will give you a dirty look if you don’t vote.

It’s almost socially acceptable to say: “Why bother?”

To overcome that, the candidates have to get people excited.

The first debate energised Republicans.

Democrats? Not so much.

That is what matters as candidates take the stage.

High stakes for Obama

The president needs to get people “fired up”, as his campaign often says.

Vice-President Joe Biden’s performance last week was aimed at doing just that – getting the base excited and setting up his boss for the main event.

So that is where things stand right now.

One more bad debate and it could be all but over for President Barack Obama.

Those are the stakes for him. He has to be thinking 90 minutes is all he has to turn it around.

I believe president enjoys pressure and rising to the challenge, but even for Obama, this has to feel like a bit much.

That brings me back to my original point.

Along with the big fancy house, the cool plane, the power and aura, a president has to handle these make-or-break moments.

We’ll see if President Obama can.

No pressure.

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