How debates will impact presidential election

CBS News

(CBS News) In a new article for The Atlantic correspondent James Fallows wrote that the presidential debates will be more decisive this year because the race is so close.

On "CBS This Morning" Thursday, Fallows said under these circumstances, the onus is on the incumbent to prove himself to the voters.

"When there is a vulnerable incumbent like now because of the economy, the challenger's case is largely made. The case is the economy is bad. So all the challenger has to do is say I'm ok, you can feel comfortable with [me]," Fallows said. "When you have a vulnerable incumbent the debates are usually a way where the challenger usually sells himself or doesn't on being an acceptable alternative."

Fallows said the economy is not Mitt Romney's only advantage. "Debating is the best thing Mitt Romney does in his range of campaigning skills and almost the worst thing Barack does in his range of campaigning skills," he said.

"The Obama challenge is to force [Romney} into some terrain he's not expecting," he said, adding that Mr. Obama will need to "maintain a sense of confidence, of ease" and "not looking beleaguered." He also said Romney will need to "take things in stride."

"The one who seems more confident, more dominant, more likeable usually is the one who has seen as having won the debates," Fallows said.

Fallows argued that it's more difficult for an incumbent president to prepare for a debate because he is focused on so many different issues including the economy and foreign policy. He also said preparing is difficult for a president because "the president is never challenged. Everyone defers to him so preparing for an impolite debate is hard to do."

Looking back at past debates, Fallows said the most consequential one was the 1980 debate between challenger Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter

"Until that debate, the race was just razor thing. After that they felt ok about Reagan."