A tight race to the finish

Third, each candidate will deliver an acceptance speech at his convention. My prediction is that Romney will exceed expectations and get a bounce from what most people believe is the most watched and most important moment of the convention. However, Obama will follow and can counter Romney and redefine the campaign with a good speech. In 1988, while I was consulting at the Republican Convention in New Orleans, George H. W. Bush came into the convention 7 to 10 points behind Governor Michael Dukakis. But Bush redefined Dukakis in a fine acceptance speech that envisioned a kinder gentler America inspired by a 1000 points of light, not to mention no new taxes.  ush came out of his convention 7% ahead in the polls. He never looked back.  Advantage Obama.

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Finally come the presidential debates, the diciest of all events to predict. Ford misspoke himself on Poland in the second debate of 1976 and watched the election slip away. Reagan upset Carter in their debate of 1980 and came from behind to win big.  Gore projected three different personas in the three debates of 2000 and lost the election. It is difficult to predict what will happen between Romney and Obama. Romney has overcome his woodenness by getting a good debate coach; he roasted Gingrich and Santorum in the last few debates and the rest is history. He should be ready for the fall. Obama is more of a conundrum. Most experts believe that Hillary Clinton out pointed him in their debates. In his debates with McCain, Obama didn’t have to do anything but let McCain fall of his own weight.  Advantage Romney.

Given these four factors, one can only conclude that we are in for a very tight race that may come down to some slight event, mistake, or tactical maneuver by either side.

Smith was a consultant to CBS News for convention coverage from 1968 to 1984. His latest book, Silencing the Opposition, was published by the State University of New York Press. He is  the director of the Center for First Amendment Studies, California State University, Long Beach.