However overhyped you think Tuesday's presidential debate is, the real cold hard truth is that it cannot be hyped enough. The stakes are impossibly high—not just for who gets to be the most powerful person on Earth, but also for the people who get paid to talk about the most powerful person on Earth, which is a powerful though considerably lesser position.
Just try imagining the stakes right now. Are you thinking about the stakes? They're really high, right? Like these are some of the highest stakes you've ever seen. Well scratch that. It's an optical illusion. The stakes are actually even higher. Unimaginably high stakes even in your imagination. These stakes might be so high they're overwhelming.
Well, calm down. Let us walk you through the stakes, and the people competing for those stakes, and how they're going to try to win them.
Combatant: Barack Obama
Mission: Win back the women who've been trending toward Romney in post-debate polls, calm supporters.
Strategy: Counterintuitively, Obama must play it cool, even though playing it too cool was what got him in trouble in the first debate. He must call Romney a liar, but in a nice way, The Daily Beast's James Warren reports: "Two sources close to the preparations said that the president will seek to make a string of points about his tenure and plans for the future in an upbeat fashion—while at the same time unabashedly and firmly contending that his opponent has not been telling the truth." He has to be calm about it: "Obama is so primed for a comeback that the number one piece of advice he is getting, according to a Democrat familiar with the president's debate preparation, is 'not to overreact, not to overcompensate,'" Politico's Mike Allen reports. Plus, Obama needs to bring a world-class wrecking crew. "Obama’s staff, blamed in part for his weak preparation, for a flawed plan, and for a lame post-debate effort are also seeking a do-over," BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller reports.