1. Obama will try to channel his inner Uncle Joe to be more "aggressive." This will come off as being unnatural, but there are enough people out there (the MSNBC crowd, the reality-TV audience, etc.) who think that aggressiveness and effectiveness are synonymous. So he'll look like he's doing better. Meanwhile, he still doesn't have command of his brief, and will stumble over facts and figures. And, of course, he can't defend the indefensible -- trillion dollar deficits, high unemployment, foreign policy disarray and military weakness. But a little bit less passivity will give people a hook to hank their hats on to claim that he did better.
Check. Obama was more aggressive and even nasty at times. The MSNBC crowd ate it up. Andrew Sullivan is off suicide watch, Rachel Maddow is declaring the return of the Messiah, Chris Matthews has his leg tingle back.
2. Romney will be Romney. A little bit boring, but stable and presidential. He passed the bar last time, this time is just confirmation.
Check. Romney could have done better at times, but he did well, and remained a plausible Presidential alternative. If people are looking to fire Obama and hire someone new, Romney has passed over the threshold of being someone able to be President. Not very many people think he's not qualified anymore.
3. Candy Crowley will try her best to drag Obama over the finish line. She will be quantum leaps up in obnoxiousness over Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz. Expect a lot of questions about the "specifics" of Romney's plan on taxes.
Check, check, check. I really didn't expect Crowley to break her own contract* to intervene as a fact-checker in Obama's favor on the Libya question. Appalling lack of journalistic ethics.
4. The mainstream media will do their best to proclaim Obama the victor in the debate if he has even only a marginally better performance.
Check. The comback narrative was pre-packaged and rolled out immediately after the debate. Whether it can hold as people dig deeper into the Libya issue in preparation for next Monday's foreign policy debate, we'll see.
* As Ann Althouse notes, the debate moderators all sign an agreement with the following proviso:
7. Additional Rules Apllicable to the October 16 Debate...
(c) With respect to all questions...
(iv) The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the 2 minute response period.