Since the first presidential debate in Denver two weeks ago, Mitt Romney has staged an amazing surge in the polls. Many Americans agree with pundits that Romney clobbered a surprisingly passive President Obama in the debate, and Romney has gone from nearly-hopeless underdog to, in some polls, the front-runner.
That puts even more pressure on Obama to put on a strong performance in the second debate.
One thing Obama can do to help himself is rebut the Romney charge that Obama "can't run on his record."
Obama's record, at least with respect to the economy, has been solid — especially relative to the economy of the prior adminstration.
Before Obama took office, the economy was in freefall, obliterated by tax cuts, runaway government spending, massive consumer debts, and lax regulatory culture of the prior administration.
The moment Obama arrived and implemented the stimulus, however, the economy began to improve. And it has gotten much better in the past four years.
Yes, it's true that economic growth has not been stellar and that unemployment is much too high. Romney is right to point out that unemployment is higher than Obama thought it would be at this point in his Presidency (See: "the chart that might get Obama fired") But relative to the economy that Obama inherited, one that featured temporary debt-fueled "sugar-high" growth that ended in catastrophe, Obama's economic record has been good.
Fresh of the success of the last debate, meanwhile, Mitt Romney needs to keep Obama on the defensive. As Romney can point out, we still have a long way to go to fix the problems that have developed in the economy over the past 30 years — namely, massive debt overhangs, extreme inequality, high unemployment, lousy schools, idiotic immigration policies, and so forth.
Romney could also use the debate to provide more details about his plans. Many voters still have little idea about what Romney will do if gets elected, and one of the most consistent knocks against Romney is that he seems to change his plans based on what he thinks voters want to hear. (See also These charts should help get Obama reelected)