Second Quarter

Can Obama Be a Superstar?

The pundits say the president needs a huge come-from-behind victory. By Howard Kurtz.

Now Barack Obama has to be LeBron James.

At least, that's what Joe Scarborough said on his MSNBC morning show. The president must act like the NBA superstar in Tuesday night's debate, pouring in points as if it is Game 7 against the Lakers.

Not too much pressure, right?

At the same time, Romney allies are working the refs by saying the media are itching to write an Obama comeback story because expectations are so low for the president.

Let's get real here. Yes, Obama is going to do better than he did in the first debate if he simply shows up with a pulse. But that doesn't mean he's going to be hailed as a conquering hero.

For one thing, the president isn't much of a pugilist. He will undoubtedly land some jabs, but he is not going to be, in basketball terms, nailing three-pointers from midcourt.

Remember, it's a town-hall format. It is harder to slam your opponent as an unfeeling plutocrat when you’re responding to a woman from Levittown whose husband lost his job.

What’s more, Obama didn’t lose the first debate simply because he treated it as a not terribly interesting press conference. Romney turned in a crisp and confident performance. While relating to ordinary folks in the audience is hardly his strong suit, Romney can be expected to play tight defense against his opponent.

Bottom line: Obama may improve and even beat the media’s expectations. But there’s no way he can clobber Romney without committing more personal fouls than a president is allowed in a general election.