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In the aftermath of the RNC, Romney can't seem to gain traction. His campaign is pinning its hopes on Mitt Romney's upcoming debate performances.

Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post gives one of the best ledes of the week with is debate preview:

Wednesday’s presidential debate promises sharp contrasts. One candidate wants to repeal Obamacare, one candidate invented it. One opposed the auto industry bailout, one takes credit for it. One doubts the scientific consensus about climate change, one believes in it. One wants to “voucherize” Medicare, one wants to save it. One dismisses nearly half of Americans as a bunch of moochers, and one claims to champion the struggling middle class.

It promises to be an epic clash: Mitt Romney vs. Mitt Romney. Oh, and President Obama will be there, too.

Conservative George Will also gives his take, conceding that Romney has an uphill battle:
Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, presidential politics is, like football, a game with a clock, one with just five weeks of ticks remaining. In football, a team behind by lots of points late in the game must take gambles. Romney is behind — in the important swing states, with the national electorate regarding who would best handle the economy and health care, and in national measures of favorable voter perceptions.

So on Wednesday night it might be risky for Romney not to take risks. But what can he do? He might add to his menu of policies by embracing, say, the idea of breaking up the largest banks, a sound policy that would subvert the caricature of him as rapacious capitalism embodied. But debates are not good venues for explaining . . . well, anything, actually, but especially not new initiatives. And October is a time for summations to the jury, not new submissions of evidence.

Liz Marlantes at The Christian Science Monitor:
How high are the stakes for Mitt Romney in this Wednesday’s debate?

Well, here’s one increasingly talked-about scenario: If Mr. Romney fails to deliver a good (perhaps even great) performance, he may face more than just bad reviews. He could begin to see an exodus on the part of his major donors and other supporters – who may choose to put their money in the final month toward what they see as more winnable contests in the Senate and House.

In particular, many observers are wondering if Romney could find himself abandoned by one of his highest-profile backers: Karl Rove.

Sam Youngman at Reuters brings us Romney's latest attempt to turn the polls around:
Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney launched a fresh attempt on Monday to paint President Barack Obama as weak on foreign policy, saying he had let U.S. leadership atrophy, while the two candidates prepared for their critical first debate on Wednesday.

Romney's aides said the weak U.S. economy remains his chief priority heading into the November 6 election, but the Democratic president's handling of national security is also fair game.

This line of attack could be tricky for Romney, who drew heavy criticism for a hasty initial reaction to violent upheavals in Egypt and Libya last month in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed along with three other Americans.

This attack angle is in line with the rumored "October Surprise" that Craig Unger wrote about in Salon -- that there's purportedly evidence that the Obama administration knew about the Benghazi attacks beforehand:
“They are so excited about it,” he said. “Over and over again they talked about how it would be just like Jimmy Carter’s failed raid. They feel it is going to give them a last-minute landslide in the election.”

The source, however, said he was dubious about the tactic. “To me, it is indicative that they have lost touch with a huge portion of the electorate,” he said.

Roger Cohen:

In the vision of President Barack Obama, America is now in the status-management business: being realistic about its power the better to exercise and preserve it. As for Mitt Romney, he belongs to Putin’s school of foreign policy. The status quo he believes in is that of three decades ago. In this regard he is a closet Russian even as he denounces Moscow. [...]

Romney’s vision, like Putin’s, is pure nostalgia. It imagines a world that is gone. Of course the clarion call of American greatness can be a distraction from economic difficulty, but Americans have grown wary of adventure.

Obama has been accused by Republicans of being in the business of “managing decline.” A better way to look at his foreign policy is one of managing the preservation of U.S. power in an interconnected world where the rapid growth is not in the West, where the national debt is a ticking bomb, and where the U.S. edge over other powers is diminishing.

David Firestone at The New York Times tackles Paul Ryan's complete failure to name any specifics on the Romney-Ryan tax plan:
That’s the core of the ticket’s pitch: An economic turnaround can come with a snap of the fingers, unaccompanied by hard choices. Mr. Ryan had plenty of time to sell that message, and even appeared to have done some math.

“Look, our pro-growth tax reform, it cuts tax rates by 20 percent, higher take-home pay for middle class, pro-growth economic policy,” Mr. Ryan said. “That right there creates about 7 million jobs.”

Seven million — isn’t that specific enough for you? Except it’s an entirely invented figure premised on the idea that slashing taxes magically produces growth—which ignores the fact that President George W. Bush’s cuts failed to achieve that result.

Reuters presents the tax questions that need answers at the debate, including this one:
Today's top corporate income tax rate of 35 percent is one of the world's highest, but few corporations pay anywhere near it due to abundant loopholes that lower their tax bills.

You have both proposed cutting the corporate tax rate: Obama to 28 percent; Romney to 25 percent. How would you pay for cuts of this magnitude and why are they needed?

Meanwhile, The Chicago Sun-Times urges moderator Jim Lehrer to ask a question about torture:
At Wednesday’s presidential debate, we hope moderator Jim Lehrer will ask a question on a topic we haven’t heard much about lately: torture.

We pretty much know where President Barack Obama stands on the matter. One of his first acts in office was to issue an order restricting interrogation techniques to exclude such abuses as waterboarding and slamming suspects into walls.

But we don’t know where Mitt Romney stands — we can only worry.

In a secret campaign memo obtained by the New York Times, Romney’s advisers urge him to “rescind” Obama’s executive order and permit “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives.”

We’ve been down this road before, people, and it’s a bad one.

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