Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

One night will decide Obama's fate

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Then-Sen. Barack Obama shakes Sen. John McCain's hand in the first presidential debate of 2008.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama shakes Sen. John McCain's hand in the first presidential debate of 2008.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Fast and Furious scandal won't determine if Obama is re-elected
  • LZ Granderson says the key event will be the first presidential debate on October 3
  • He says Mitt Romney will go after the president with every criticism he can muster
  • Granderson: Obama will be judged on how well he defends his record

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- President Barack Obama will not lose his re-election bid because of Eric Holder.

As sensational as the headlines surrounding the Fast and Furious controversy might be, recent history tells us Holder is only the topic of conversation right now.

Come July, we'll forget all about it much in the way the Keystone Pipeline is hardly mentioned.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Remember, it was just last week that all of the talk was about immigration and the Latino vote.

The week before that, it was same-sex marriages.

Romney attacks Obama but lacks details
Author: Obama better off without father
Bloomberg on President Obama

So Holder -- and the rest of those those sexy subplots -- are really just there to keep us entertained until the main event, the only event that matters leading to the election: the first debate. Everything before that will will likely fade away by November, especially for independents.

It's what happens when Obama and Mitt Romney finally square off on Wednesday, October 3, that will have the greatest influence on those who are undecided. The candidates will debate at the University of Denver, in the first of three planned presidential debates.

But you know the old saying: the first impression is the last impression. So if Obama stumbles in the first, he might as well spend the rest of the fall packing.

Team Romney knows this, which is why what we saw in the Republican primary debates is not what we're going to see in October. Back then, Romney came across flat and on the defensive in the first debate, but this time expect him to come out swinging, questioning nearly every decision the president has ever made -- from cash for clunkers and bailouts to health care reform and the stimulus package.

The presumptive Republican nominee won't have to knock Obama out, but if the night ends with the president appearing to be on the back of his of his heels, the game is over. After all, what could he possibly say in the next two debates or on the campaign trail that would erase an image of him struggling to defend his own record?

Especially against a guy who continues to struggle to be liked, much in the same way a rigid Richard Nixon struggled against the charismatic John F. Kennedy, the wooden Al Gore paled next to the friendly demeanor of George W. Bush and listless John McCain couldn't come close to igniting the crowd like Obama in 2008.

But to complicate things, Obama is defending his record against a man who is not afraid to distort the facts (i.e. lie) to win brownie points. That's not my opinion, that's what the people who currently endorse Romney said.

After a debate in Florida, Newt Gingrich said Romney gave "the most blatantly dishonest performance by a presidential candidate I've ever seen." Earlier, Rick Santorum said he was "stunned that Mitt Romney does not have the ability to discern something that is blatantly false."

On top of that, Obama has to find a way to remind the country where it was before he took office without appearing to be blaming former President Bush because, fair or not, people don't want to hear it. And unlike the backdrop of 2008, Obama doesn't have the luxury of speaking in generic hypotheticals because the country will have specific examples in 2012 to look at.

Nowhere to run.

Nowhere to hide.

And not a teleprompter in sight.

Just Romney, the list of promises Obama made in 2008 and his list of accomplishments heading into the stretch run of 2012.

If he's re-elected, it won't be based on how he handles gaffes or controversies such as Fast and Furious. It will be because he took the GOP's best shot and came out on top on the one night doing so mattered most.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT