Here's a prediction about what Obama will try to accomplish in the debate on Wednesday. On the defensive side, he will try to more clearly outline his policy vision for a second term and will almost certainly have to ward off what is likely to be a steady stream of attacks on his economic stewardship from Romney.
But I also predict that he will (and believe that he should) be very much on offense. He won't go on offense in a slashing, mean spirited sort of way. But he will and should return again and again to a single theme throughout. His theme will and should be that voters cannot and should not trust Romney with the presidency.
The grounds for distrusting Romney is not that he is temperamentally unsuited to be president. Indeed, I'm sure that although Romney will be aggressive, he will be calm and focused and will have the aura of a potential president. Instead, Obama's attack will focus at every turn on whether Romney can actually be trusted to fight for the non-wealthy -- the middle class, the working class, and the nearly forgotten poor. He will and should roll all the disparate attacks they have mounted against Romney -- the attacks on the Bain capital approach to capitalism, the attacks on Romney's secretive offshore accounts, on his unwillingness to come clean about either his own taxes or his scheme to cut taxes, on his tasteless dissing of the 47% to his cabal of wealthy donors, on his plans to voucherize medicare and even, I think, on Romney's plans to repeal Obama care -- into a single overriding question. The million dollar question for voters? Can you really trust this out of touch plutocrat to wake up every day in the Oval Office with your best interests foremost in his mind? Can you trust him to give his all to protecting and defending the interests of the non-wealthy?
I hope that he will provide us at some point with a riff that can be repeated into a meme on a par with Reagan's famous "Are you better off...? If such a riff takes on the status of a meme it would succinctly crystallize the choice as Obama would frame it.
Romney will have to have some sort of comeback. Not sure what it could or will be. "I really do care about the 100%. I was just kowtowing shamelessly to my rich donors when I dissed the 47%." "A rising tide lifts all boats -- even the freeloaders." But I do suspect that if Obama frames the question about Romney in this way (thereby turning the closing days partly into a referendum on Romney) then unless Romney does have an effective comeback, he's toast.