The Four Debate Questions Obama and Romney Must Answer

President Barack Obama speaks Friday at a campaign fund raising event in Washington, DC.

President Barack Obama speaks Friday at a campaign fund raising event in Washington.

Photo by Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images.

It’s so predictable. As the presidential debates approach, a representative from each side starts playing the expectations game, downplaying how well his candidate will do, hoping that the chattering classes will report afterward that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney did better than expected.

It’s like working the refs in an NBA game. It has nothing to do with who’s really scoring more points—and it doesn’t even fool anyone.

Let’s be real. Both candidates are smart and articulate, and they’re skilled at this form of debate. Instead of spending their precious time trying to manipulate our sympathies, both campaigns and their candidates should be focusing on the serious questions that need answering.

Here are a few for starters.

For Mitt Romney:

  • You’ve attacked the individual mandate requirement in the president’s health care plan. But you approved it for Massachusetts. And you, Newt Gingrich, and the Heritage Foundation argued it was the key to sound health care economics until Barack Obama adopted it. Explain why the individual mandate is no longer essential to health care economics, and explain how the popular parts of the health plan can survive without it.
  • Name two things—with specificity—you would do differently about Iran and Russia.

For President Obama:

  • The growth rate of our economy for the second quarter was just downgraded to a 1.3 percent rise in the gross domestic product. And in 2013, you will face the same divided Congress as before. What will you do to jump-start an economy with employment stagnant and no clear engine of growth out there?
  • Every report about the financial crisis has been critical of your administration for not dealing with the mortgage crisis as part of a larger resolution with the banks. Why did banks get a bigger break than homeowners? What are you going to do to reboot conditions for homeowners who are still underwater?

So never mind debate expectations. We shouldn’t judge the debates on who did better than they were supposed to. We need to see who can give real answers to real questions.