With the conventions concluded (inconclusively) and the presidential race still breathlessly close, the next big chance for a game-changing development comes with the debates, scheduled for Oct. 3, 16, and 22, with the single vice-presidential debate on Oct. 11.
The possibility for a decisive turning point increases due to the obvious vulnerability of both candidates to difficult questions they’ve mostly managed to dodge or fudge in the course of the campaign. For instance:
For President Obama: At the Charlotte convention, your supporters enthusiastically cheered for “Four More Years.” The question for you is four more years of what? Another four years of unemployment above 8 percent, annual deficits more than a trillion dollars a year, and gridlock and polarization in Washington? In your acceptance speech you acknowledged that the last four years have been difficult and painful. At the same time your campaign slogan is "Forward" and you express determination to press ahead with the policies of your first term. If you don't intend to change your approach, why should the American people expect a better result?
For Governor Romney: The U.S. economy suffered a major collapse in September 2008, and most Americans blame President George W. Bush for the disaster. Do you also blame President Bush and his policies? Where would you differ most dramatically in your approach to the economy, and how do you answer the claims of your opponent that you just want to go back to the “same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place”?
For President Obama: You promise to spend more in federal “investments” in high-speed rail, education, solar energy, college loans, high-tech research, and other priorities. But the only proposal to pay for that spending involves a modest increase in tax rates for the richest 3 percent of taxpayers. According to your administration’s own figures, these tax hikes will generate at best $80 billion a year—reducing the current deficit by barely 7 percent, while paying nothing to fund all your plans for new federal programs. In your acceptance speech, you criticized your opponent’s arithmetic. How are your numbers supposed to add up for you—especially in terms of your announced goal of cutting our dangerous deficit in half?