Pre-Debate Crankiness

According to BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins, Mitt Romney got “virtually no sleep” on Monday night thanks to freight trains that kept barreling past his hotel. I can relate. Was going to take a good, solid, pre-debate nap, but got a phone call. So be forewarned: I’m live-blogging crankily.

I do wonder what kind of sleep Jim Lehrer’s been getting. It should be obvious that in this format he’s going to have enormous impact on the debate. Does he ask probing, substantive questions (my ultimate fantasy would be one asking Romney exactly how interestate health insurance sales would work)? Or does he offer bland questions and force the candidates to go deeper or just slide along?

Paul Waldman does raise a very good question that could be pivotal: Will Mitt be able to adjust to the very different dynamics of a general election debate after all those months of primary debates when everyone took turns bashing an absent Obama and the crowds hooted for red meat? To a much greater degree than Obama, he’ll have to be thinking constantly about multiple audiences: the restive conservative base that wants him to go large and go wild; the low-information voters who know little about his background; the true swing voters who have a generally dim impression of him; and then, of course, the President of the United States, who’ll be standing right next to him and will surely respond if Mitt ascribes polices or intentions to him that aren’t accurate.

I usually find these affairs to be excruciating, and often yell or even claw at the screen. But I’ll try to keep my bearings and give you quick reactions to what we are all seeing on the tube.

Back just before the lights go on.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.