What Mitt Romney Has To Do In The Debates

Take A Punch From The Left

Mitt Romney performed well in high-stakes primary debates, but the number one challenge each time was to show skeptical Republicans that he was a true conservative, mostly by outflanking his opponents on issues like immigrationand the environment.

This time, however, the president’s attacks will be coming from the left, where Romney often seems less comfortable selling his positions — at times even seeming to invent new ones.

Fire Up Early Voters

Sure Romney’s in rough shape, but the only poll that matters is on Nov. 6, right? Wrong. The debates aren’t just a preview to Election Day, they actually come just as voters hit the polls in key states.

Regain The Upper Hand

Debates are not historically huge poll movers, which puts even more pressure on Romney to have a breakout that puts the president on the defensive.

Part of that means putting his own recent troubles behind him, especially his leaked “47 percent” remarks, with rock solid, believable answers. Part of it means finding an unexpected attack, clever zinger, or memorable moment that might throw Obama off his game.

Read more from TPM’s Benjy Sarlin…