Maryann Tobin

The single biggest game-changer in the 2012 presidential election may turn out to be Mitt Romney's secretly taped video.

At a private fundraising event in May, Romney dissed nearly half the U.S. population.

Romney said that 47 percent of the people “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. ... These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. ... My job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," according to the video transcript released on Mother Jones.

Polls show that since the Romney video was published in mid-September, Romney's poll numbers have taken a dive.

Romney supporters are hoping that a good performance at the first presidential debate with President Obama, on Oct. 3 in Denver, will turn the tide for their embattled candidate.

However, the Romney video has been very damaging and is now being used in Obama campaign ads in key swing states. It must be working, because Obama is now enjoying widening margins in all nine swing states.

But the real problem with the “47 percent” video is that it may be the only bit of evidence that seems to reflect the real Mitt Romney—and it's not pretty.

An outstanding performance in the debates may help Romney, but it may not be strong enough to be a game-changer as some have suggested.

As Reuters said, "Television is a visual medium, and the body language of the candidates can have a bigger impact than their words."

Throughout debate history, seemingly small things have turned out to have a bigger impact on voters than anticipated.

There was Richard Nixon's sweating, next to John F. Kennedy's calm-cool. George H.W. Bush looked at his watch, as if bored by his 1992 debate with Bill Clinton.

Will Mitt Romney get testy? Can he come off as sincere despite his reputation for constantly changing his position on the issues? Or will Romney be so over-rehearsed that all he does is reinforce his image as an empty piece of plastic in a suit?

Even if everything goes perfectly for Mitt Romney, he still may not be able to debate away the damage from insulting 47 percent of the population.

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