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Opinion: Does Mitt Romney Have An October Surprise For The Debate?

The Buck Starts Here

Governor Romney has spent a lot of time in debate prep lately. The campaign, short on specifics to date, is also starting to roll out a few hints about policies that Romney has been silent on.

The campaign has not rolled out any real plans, but they seem to enjoy dropping little nuggets, sort of policy-ettes.

For health care Romney prefers high deductable, high fee, high co-pay plans and the elimination of the elimination of co-pays for preventative care.

As for Obama's version of the DREAM Act, Romney now says he would honor the visas purchased while Obama is President, but no word on what Romney's immigration reform would look like beyond the self-deportation he advocated in the spring.

The Romney/Ryan campaign has also talked a little more about removing deductions from the tax code, including deductions that middle class Americans enjoy. He told an Ohio crowd not to expect middle class tax relief because he would close off deductions. The cuts are going to the "job creators" like Mitt Romney, who retired from business since either 1999 or 2002.

These developments beg the question: is Mitt Romney planning an October surprise of sorts for tonight? Has he been saving policy announcements for the debate?

If so it is a huge gamble. Debates are about summing up you case for the presidency not explaining new policy. And Romney will never be mistaken for a great communicator.

Romney may be betting that holding policy announcements for the debate will catch the president off guard, limit the number of stories that take a deep look at the impact of his policies and break new ground as a candidate by making news at a debate.

Of course all Romney has left is to gamble. Nothing about his general election campaign has been effective to date.

If this is his plan then the strategy is high risk, low reward: if he fumbles details the whole thing blows up in his face.

But this "strategy" would explain why Governor Christie vowed on the Sunday shows that this would be a new race on the day after the debate.

Romney has done all that he can to avoid policy scrutiny to date. Rolling out policy at a presidential debate seems like the sort of goofy trick that is right up Romney's alley – thinking that he can manipulate the process in his favor.

The New York Times has also reported that Romney has an arsenal of "zingers" that he has been trying out on aides for weeks.

So if Romney has an off the cuff moment of incite or humor, know that it was a canned line. Not that Romney will seem anything other than rehearsed tonight.

Romney aids biggest fear is that he will not connect with voters so they have literally tried to coach him to be likable. That alone is reason enough to tune in and watch.

Mitt Romney had a lot of debate experience in the spring. He had some strong moments, he had some bizarre moments – like the $10,000 bet – and he had flashes of anger, frustration and know-it-all-ness.

We will see which Mitt shows up in Denver tonight and what tricks he has up his sleeve.

For Republicans that have seen Romney squander opportunities by trying to be too cute by half, like picking Paul Ryan but saying Ryan's policies had nothing to do with the ticket or putting Clint Eastwood on stage as the warm up act for his speech in Tampa, there is a lot of fear that Romney will choke tonight.

If he does, the race is all but over. We will see tonight how Mitt Romney deals with that pressure.

About Bill Buck

Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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