Over the weekend, the NYT reported that the Romney campaign has this whole debate thing figured out:
Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.
Ezra says this kind of thinking is the campaign just rearranging its deck chairs:
The idea that this election can be reshaped by a zinger speaks to a deeper problem in the Romney campaign’s fundamental view of the race. As they see it, Obama’s record is an obvious disaster and their job entails little more than pointing that out over and over again. That the polls haven’t seemed responsive to this theory hasn’t dissuaded them. The new explanation for Romney’s difficulties is that the media are in the tank for Obama and that’s why the Romney campaign’s message isn’t breaking through.
But during the debates, voters will see the two men on a stage together, with no media filter, and that could change everything. After the first debate, says Romney surrogate Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), “this whole race is going to be turned upside down.” That’s the kind of thinking that leads you to pepper your debate prep with zingers. But it’s also the kind of thinking that’s losing this race for Romney.
Dan Amira dumps the cold water:
In fact, considering that, historically, only a couple of presidential debates are thought to have actually altered the outcome of the race, the most likely post-debate narrative may be that Romney did better than expected, but not well enough to existentially undermine Obama's lead. Of course, you never know what could happen. Maybe Romney's "zingers" are just that good.
Looking back, Sophie Quinton rounds up the top 8 debate zingers of all time.