This Wednesday night, former "PBS NewsHour" anchor Jim Lehrer will host the first of three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments, with Lehrer beginning each by posing a question to the candidates, who will each have two minutes to respond. Lehrer will then direct the conversation for the remaining time in each segment.
Lehrer will have sole discretion to choose the topics and questions for each of the segments in the first debate. But he has already announced the debate will focus on "the economy, health care, governing and government's role in people's lives."
With that in mind, here are three messages Romney must communicate Wednesday night if he has any hope of catching Obama in the polls.
Obama promised jobs and he has failed to deliver: In 2008, before he was elected president, Obama promised he would create 5 million jobs in his first four years in office. After he was elected, his economic team promised that his $800 billion stimulus plan would keep unemployment below 8 percent.
Four years later, Obama is still a net jobs killer. There are 261,000 fewer jobs in the United States today than when Obama was sworn into office. And despite population growth of nearly 9 million, 86,000 fewer Americans have jobs today than when Obama became president. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for a record 43 months.
Obama is now promising to create 1 million manufacturing jobs in his next term. But last month, manufacturing employment fell by 15,000. The Obama economy is going in the wrong direction.
Obama promised to cut the deficit in half during his first term, and he has failed to deliver: In 2009, when our nation's budget deficit was already above $1 trillion, Obama promised "to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office."
Last month the Congressional Budget Office confirmed Obama has failed on this front, too. Even after his stimulus spending ran out, our deficit will still top $1 trillion in 2012 for the fourth straight year.
Obama is now promising that he has a plan to reduce our nation's debt by $4 trillion. But that supposed $4 trillion in savings is spread out over 10 years, includes $1 trillion in cuts that have already been signed into law, another $1 trillion in war spending that was never going to happen anyway, and another trillion in fantasy savings from lower interest payments.
Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget, has called Obama's debt plan a "gimmick." Meanwhile, the CBO has certified that the actual spending plan Obama submitted to Congress would add, not subtract, $4 trillion to the debt over just the next four years.
Obama promised to reduce health insurance premiums by $2,500, and he has failed to deliver: In 2008, candidate Obama promised that his health care plan would "cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year." Obama got his health care plan through Congress without a single Republican vote. But instead of insurance premiums decreasing by $2,500 as Obama promised, the Kaiser Family Foundation says premiums have gone up by $2,730.
The Obama campaign released a new two-minute television ad this week featuring the president himself speaking directly to the camera and making a slew of new promises directly to the America people. Romney's No. 1 priority in the debate should be to remind voters of the promises Obama made four years ago, and then ask voters to hold the president accountable for failing at every turn.
Conn Carroll (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.