A Second-by-Second Preview of What Romney Will Do at the Debate

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The Romney campaign has spent the last few weeks hyping the event, but while doing so, they've made the curious decision to preview almost every single second of the candidate's debate performance in the press. The pundit consensus is that Mitt Romney needs to do something big to move polls in his direction, and the campaign consensus is that the debate will be what does it. Here's a look at the extremely detailed account of what Romney will do, according to what his campaign has told the media:

9:00p.m. ET: Debate starts

Seconds later: "As soon as he gets on stage ... he takes off his watch and puts it on the podium," Ann Romney tells CNN's Gloria Borger.

Seconds after that: Romney "writes 'Dad' on the piece of paper," Ann says, to remind him that he "Doesn't want to do anything that would not make his father proud."

Seconds after that: "And then he looks in the audience and he finds me. He has to find where I am. And– he just– he needs just that connection," Ann says.

Questions begin: Obama gets the first question, as decided by coin toss.

Then: Romney will try to seem warm. Romney aides "want their candidate to balance his finely tuned arguments with personal warmth," the National Review's Robert Costa reports. "Since Romney is a reserved man, his advisers acknowledge that it will be difficult for him to endear himself to the country, especially under the hot studio lights. But they consider it critical."

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Next: "Rather than fire off brusque retorts, as he often did during primary debates, Romney will take care 'to speak in paragraphs about the economy,' a second aide says," according to Costa.

Immediately after Romney's finishes speaking: "And almost after every answer that he gives, he'll find me in the audience, to see, 'Was that good? Was that okay?'" Ann says.

Things Romney will say: Romney will say "the president is disconnected from the unemployed," Costa reports. Plus:

  • He won't talk about his business experience as much as stories from the campaign trail, Costa says. 
  • He will argue this is a choice between two competing visions. The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports that "even though the rationale of Mr. Romney’s candidacy is rooted in his business experience and his promise to revive the economy, advisers said he would try to broaden the argument against Mr. Obama’s job performance by raising questions about how his administration handled the attack on a diplomatic mission last month in Libya that killed four Americans."
  • He is prepared to talk about the 47 percent video.
  • His five-point economic plan.
  • Statistics.

How Romney will say it: "When he has the opportunity to give a full response, look for him to speak directly to the camera, making his case. When the president knocks him, however, Romney won’t try to stay above the fray, and he’ll try to make sure that his answers are more than clinical prescriptions," Costa writes.

Tone he will use: "[R]espectfully aggressive," a senior adviser tells The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny, who writes the candidate has "a goal of pleasing Republicans who believe he has been too passive."

Thing he won't show: "Romney’s intermittent anger," Costa says.

On Bain: "Clear and curt responses," Costa says.

On Ann: At least one mention.

On his dad: A possible mention.

On jokes: No "stray remarks or extemporaneous jokes," Costa writes. Instead, The New York Times' Peter Baker and Ashley Parker report, there will be practiced zingers.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.