* The expectations game has been really stupid, with both campaigns trying to convince the media that the other candidate is God's gift to the oratory arts. Frankly, if either candidate can make it to the podium without tripping, they will try to call themselves the winner.
* What Romney needs to do: Stop trying to be likeable; the time for that is over. Don't laugh at your own jokes. Be serious. Give specifics. Avoid zingers (he can't do them well).
* What Obama needs to do: Don't go for the jugular. Be presidential. Connect with the voter directly, instead of attacking Romney. Avoid zingers (they're beneath you). Give specifics.
* What I believe will happen: Romney will attack Obama more than the reverse. He will try to give what he thinks are specifics, but aren't really. He will, however, smile less and be less "folksy" in a (successful) attempt to look more presidential.
* Don't expect one-liners or zingers to play a big role. But watch for demeanor. Sighs. Flashes of anger. Boredom. Condescension. These can make a big difference.
* The media creates "who won the debate". In other words, the news analysis shapes how we perceive the debate more than the debate itself. Look at this chart:
The things we remember about debates are not the first, or even second thing, we notice about the debates while watching them. As Sides says, Gerald Ford's famous "Poland gaffe" didn't even register with viewers until the next day, after the media had gotten hold of it. And Al Gore handily won his first 2000 debate with George Bush in every single overnight poll. His famous sighing only became a cause célèbre after the talking heads started talking about it nonstop.
* After the debate, the left (MSNBC) will predictably say Obama won. The right (Fox) will predictably say Romney won, and complain that the question from Lehrer were biased against Romney. The objective pundits (there are a few out there) will say it was a "tie", but add that a "tie" works to Romney's benefit since it can show that he has held his own with the President. All in all, this means that "Romney wins".