The word on the street is that Mitt Romney has been rehearsing some little zingers he will throw at President Obama during the imminent debate. Perhaps Romney has secretly sojourned to the Actors Studio in New York to study his method. When he tries to trick the president with the zingers, should Mitt's practiced smile face the camera, or look away? When Romney practices projecting the sincerity of his concern for the 47 percent of Americans he recently insulted, is Mitt smiling or looking serious during rehearsal? Is there a calcUlated tear that may trickle down his cheek when Romney offers his zinger to show his passion for helping the jobless (presumably including those made jobless by Bain Capital)?

I basically agree with the editorial in The Hill in the Tuesday paper. This is Mitt Romney's moment. Let's see what he makes of it.

Here is Mitt's problem: Republicans are dominated by a hardline conservative base, while the hardline conservative base is now dominated by a moderate liberal Republican nominee who masquerades as a hardline conservative — for now.


Will Mitt move left, right or center during the debate? When Romney uses the inevitable line about whether voters are better off than they were four years ago, and Obama offers the inevitable response that when he took office the nation was losing 700,000 jobs a month, what zinger is Mitt rehearsing to answer this?

Mitt's problem is that he cannot flip and flop, etch and sketch, bob and weave, and weathervane in every direction at the same time, in the same debate.

I suspect the debates will have less impact than most pundits believe. There will be soaring spin from both campaigns, and the media will (as always) look for a narrative and storyline that Armageddon is now coming for one of the two candidates — after the debate. But I suspect the result will be more like a dinner of Chinese food — tasty, but with the nation hungry shortly after the meal, because:

Neither candidate, in truth, is offering a roadmap to the future, and neither will offer a credible roadmap during a debate that will be programmed like a battle between two Manchurian candidates.

Romney's problem is deeper than anything he can solve with zingers in debates. He does not stand for anything. He promises to change Medicare and Social Security in ways that voters do not want. He speaks of wars like they are campaign tactics, without any clear discussion of which wars he would fight and which wars he would end. His video, which speaks the truth in his own words, with his own voice, speaking his own sentiments, at his own fundraiser, will ultimately define his image with voters who, very simply, don't like him and don't trust him.

A man who needs vision, backbone, clarity, principle and courage will not be elected by spinning well-rehearsed zingers, whether those rehearsals occur at the Actors Studio or with his staff, which once affectionately called him the candidate of Etch-A-Sketch.