Shannon O'Brien: 'Make Or Break Night for Mitt Romney'

Democrat who debated Romney in 2002 says Barack Obama must be on his toes tonight.

Mitt Romney's been down in the polls before, says Shannon O'Brien, the former Massachusetts state treasurer who battled him for governor in 2002. "I've seen him turn things around."

O'Brien is referring to their 2002 debate, which was seen as a springboard for the millionaire businessman. Romney has since sparred in numerous GOP debates, in 2008 and 2012, and has smoothed out some of that stiff Romney from yesteryear, she says in an interview with Patch.

His is a familiar strategy, said O'Brien, who now owns a consulting business in Boston: 

  • Spend a ton of money on TV attack ads.
  • Target "punch lines" in a debate to crystallize said attacks.

Those punch lines she refers to are the supposed "zingers" Romney is reported to have rehearsed over the past month. How many will he fire off? And how well will the sitting president fend them off?

Obama has to be ready to parry or counter any of these attack lines, according to O'Brien. He has to be concise, stick to the issues, and present a vision for the country.

O'Brien recalls Romney, in their critical 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial debate, showed a "lack of empathy," including declining to say something nice about his opponent when asked by the moderator. In one exchange, Romney also chided his opponent for being "unbecoming." Their final debate also included an O'Brien joke that went over flat: "Would you like to see my tattoo?"

It's an opportune time for both candidates. Many Americans are only now starting to pay attention to the race. And O'Brien says people are only now starting to swing to Obama on the economy. Remember that secret taping of Romney, the one in which he remarks about 47 percent of the country? Expect to hear that tonight, too.

O'Brien calls it "the gift that Mitt Romney gave to Barack Obama."

And what about Romney, her old political foe?

"I think it is a make or break night for Mitt Romney," she says. "I think he's got to hit it out of the park."

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