Right now, President Obama and Mitt Romney are looking for the one line that will stand out as the defining line of the debate, a line that encapsulates the candidate’s reason for running and all his frustrations with the other guy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a solution for the nation’s problems. But it does have to immediately resonate with voters.
In 1980, the quip that stood out was challenger Ronald Reagan’s dismissive, “There you go again…” to President Carter. Folks knew exactly what Reagan meant: that we had seen through Carter’s attempts to attack Reagan’s supposedly “radical tendencies” as a dodge to distract voters from Carter’s responsibility for an ever-weakening America.
This time around it’s a safe bet that President Obama will try out another quip to further characterize Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire. It’s much less clear what quip the Romney team is looking for. His campaign has suffered from lack of clarity all along. The debates would be the perfect moment to fix on one. And frankly, we think we have one, based on the president’s own record.