Will Wednesday night’s debate have much to offer the dwindling band of undecided voters who could well determine the outcome of the presidential election? Aside from predictable moments of combat, can they expect anything to help make up their minds?
That will be up to the third person on stage, PBS’ unflappable Jim Lehrer. He’ll be trying to get the candidates to focus on issues, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Here are three questions I hope Lehrer will ask -- and, if he doesn’t get an answer the first time, ask again:
First, for President Obama: Was the partisan gridlock that made it impossible to fix the federal budget entirely the opposition’s fault, or was there anything you could have done to produce a better outcome?
Next, for Gov. Romney: On your way to the nomination, you embraced all the tenets of your party’s conservative base -- from maintaining the Bush tax cuts to repealing "Obamacare." Are there any fiscal issues on which you would compromise with Democrats to reach a bipartisan deal in Congress?
And finally, for both candidates: Is there anything your opponent has proposed in this campaign that you would support?
A candid discussion of important issues is a lot to hope for from a debate. But wouldn’t it be nice?
Follow Doyle McManus on Twitter @DoyleMcManus