Analyst: If Obama Loses Election, 1st Debate Is Why

ABC News' Matthew Dowd explains what President Obama, Mitt Romney must do in final debate.
3:00 | 10/22/12

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Transcript for Analyst: If Obama Loses Election, 1st Debate Is Why
Let's -- -- Matt -- -- an ABC news political consultant they actually -- -- political analyst that you also are. Political consultant and was trapped previous laws previous life a reform I -- that's -- and has actually happen. These candidates for debates in the past let me ask you had ever seen a cycle where can't -- the debates have been this important. And that as a corollary to that question is it possible if Barack Obama loses that this election that it will be because he -- that first debate. We did last cycle that I think -- -- this biggest this amount of impact and even that I think was slain last 2004. When President Bush had five or six point lead. Going into that first debate. Lost badly in -- carry that leads evaporate he was able to get it back to about one or two point and it basically the final couple weeks he carried -- one or two point. -- -- -- If in the aftermath that he had lost that race it would have been because he wasn't prepared didn't come to the first one. If President Obama loses this race you can point directly to that first debate as the reason he lost this race. So -- how do you top tier candidates. About making these foreign policy issues relate to the average person. -- at least for many people they -- foreign policy and I think it's too complicated doesn't have. Has nothing to do with me. Obviously folks need to talk about they were being you know they want talk about the economy so how do you do that. Well I think that this debate really is it isn't much different kind of -- I think foreign policy as always you viewed through through that prism of the chair in the Oval Office and the commander in chief sort of test and it really is a case how strong clear and thoughtful you are beginning -- in the world as that leader of the United States. And so I think all of that. Vibe around this and whether you do well or not is not to sort of think and I understand where average Americans are -- -- But much more is -- average American see me having the strength and clarity and ability to operate in the world. Whether it's militarily diplomatically or economically and so I think tonight as much a much bigger commander in chief test. And actually goes back to what happened in the first today you really think about it Mitt Romney came across as much more strong much -- much -- -- decisive. If if that same dynamic develops tonight it is a big big big problem for the president going it. I think they both understand that it's less about like -- -- -- -- explain -- -- has to do with. Somebody in Ohio and much more -- -- here's what I would do in this case -- here's what I am doing is that the president. So Matt in the first debate Mitt Romney came and it was not -- Romney the Obama ad blitz for the patriots' six months items. A department Romney's morsel for surety didn't come across the monster in my -- Now for months and months the Obama campaign has been tying Ronnie to the bush foreign policy. How big a factor do you think the -- he's just like bush will be tonight. I think that's going to be part of it is saying that if you like the bush foreign policy then you'll love Mitt Romney if you like the bush advisors and -- love Mitt Romney I think that's going to be I'm sure -- with the president's gonna do tonight. But I think the president's also going to be a situation where he's gonna have to explain some things that are in current events. He's gonna explain more of them the Libya situation is still. That's a lot of questions related -- obviously what's come up in the last few days about Iran and whether or not that we are we in some negotiation -- Having negotiations are having a conversation is gonna come up tonight but I think it in the end it's -- be it it's going to be how do you project. Strength in the course of answering questions on a variety of issues I think there and allow fifteen minutes or so this is my -- That doesn't touch the economy and then somebody's gonna say listen importance of this has to do with the Italian -- of this -- fair trade they're gonna try to bring it back but I think if they try to do that too early. They're gonna look like they're trying to distance himself from foreign policy discussion that he you know that you you know -- grammys he keeps saying we have more muscular foreign policy that. It's easy for his opponent to -- that is. Endless war ala George W. Bush threat yet I think that dynamic and it's a balance and I used to have this conversation. When bush was president. There's -- balance the American public about how we project into the world. -- simultaneously American public wants us to be feared but they also want us to be light. The public when they see themselves and so part of what happened during the bush presidency they got the fear -- down. And all that but they never got -- lake -- out of the country actually American voters were like -- now we want to be like we want people alike without world. I think what the Romney campaign paid Cain is pregnant trying to do and -- try to do as president Obama's got the -- part down. But he doesn't have the fear part now and I think that's the balance and I think whoever captures that best -- sort of a duality. It's because you could have to prevent people -- one case here's what we -- do you force are well up around the world and here's some evening news knowing he'd act diplomatically. When the country sort of want -- to walk that balance. So -- talk to us about why we even. Chunk these in two different debate topics right I mean why not just have one we have a debate that focuses just on foreign policy. You think that it's because work. That folks are worried that these issues might not get discussed or is it as you pointed out that. Look this is the commander in chief it is the one thing that the president can actually have more impact on than anything else forget about the economy -- the budget office. Well Amy I think if you and I were in charge of world in which -- -- -- -- -- this thing. I think that we have I think in my view we have three debates -- have -- for a wide ranging topics that the economy is discussed each one obviously have to be the dominant issue but that foreign policy -- custody from because it becomes part of that. Becomes part of the way people make their vote -- how they house on the project themselves obviously the debate commission. And others wanted -- talked a lot and never found out about what we should do. But I think in the end you know -- -- -- it was split conversation the town hall meeting. The economy will come up tonight but in my view would be much better system we have three debates and all the topics discussed each one. So David -- mentioned this -- -- earlier in his he's pretty talked about that summer trip overseas from Romney. How do you think -- -- -- -- that trip tonight American here when -- met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. He told me acts or is now running and -- try to put that side. I don't think he'll references trip but he knows he'll references conversations and obviously he has a preexisting relationship with -- Benjamin Netanyahu related to his. Business experience and so he'll bring up. Now with the first from -- BV. I'm sure that will come up and whether that be permitting -- and it has and I am -- gonna let my. But you know that's fascinating thing about this race is if you look back five months ago. The race and we spent a billion dollars is -- -- about to have three debate that fourth if you consider the vice presidential debate all the things that happen. And the race basically is exactly where it was five months of one or two point race. Five months ago and that's where earlier today or fourteen and a half days that it's it is actually a fascinating thing that the structure of this race. Keeps trying to force its way back to where it's sort of the status quo which is -- one or two point race and it's possible. Given how close the races tonight as we said something could happen and I think once again changed the dynamic or -- key difference that the dental CNA at a center today I think organized -- -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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