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Published October 02 2012

Forum editorial: Romney can win on policy

Tonight’s debate in Denver between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney might not be a make-or-break event for either man. But with an estimated 50 million Americans expected to watch, debate performances could make the difference between a close race – as it is now – or a fading campaign for one of them.

Romney has not had a good fall. He’s made mistakes that indicate rookies are running his campaign. He’s handed the Obama camp club after club and then invited Democrats and national media to beat him up. They have obliged.

For his part, the president has been singing the same discredited tune that has done little to steady the economy or achieve the “post partisan” America he promised four years ago. Instead, he has championed an agenda that seems designed to divide the nation, threaten job-creating small and large businesses, and erode U.S. standing in the world. How is it, then, that Romney is not leading the president by double digits?

The answer is Romney. By nearly every analysis, the president’s first-term performance has not measured up to his “hope and change” mantra. Yet, the Republican nominee, who clearly is a skilled business leader and successful former governor, has been unable to convince more than half of American voters he’s the man for the job. Nationally he’s running neck-and-neck with the president, polls say. But in the all-important swing states, Romney is from four to eight points behind; and every time he campaigns in one of those states his numbers get worse. The presidency cannot be won without winning some combination of two or more of those states.

Tonight’s debate puts both men in their first public one-on-one. In the expectations game, the Obama camp has been emphasizing that “he (Romney) is a good debater,” while trying to downplay the president’s skills. Don’t buy it. Romney is a good debater, but no one should underestimate Obama’s considerable talent and stage presence. And while style and wit are always interesting, the nation is ready to hear give-and-take on substance, policy and vision. On that score, Romney needs to be at the top of his game. Americans know all about Obama’s failures. They want to hear Romney’s remedies. Then his poll numbers might go up.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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