If Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is going to take down President Obama, he may have to borrow a line from Bill Clinton — "It’s the economy, stupid."

So said several attendees at the Project Pericles Forum at Hendrix Thursday. The forum, run by Jay Barth, Chair of the Politics and International Relations Department, is focusing its attention on the two conventions, and Thursday’s question was, "What Does Mitt Romney’s Message Need To Be?" The answer coming from several people was simple: the economy.

A mix of professors and students debated the approach that Romney should take, whether that should be through negative attacks on Obama’s failure to manage the deficit or focus on his proposed solutions for small businesses, but the overall message was clear: keep the focus on the economy.

With the president increasing the deficit to $5 trillion in the past four years, it was noted that many in his position economically do not get a second chance. The question posed by forum facilitator Dr. Ralph Scott then became why Romney didn’t hold a larger lead at this point.

The key could be Romney’s likability factor. Many agreed that both Obama and George W. Bush were very likeable candidates for their parties. Some thought Romney had not taken that step in terms of affection from those in the Republican Party, although New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in his speech what many in the forum were thinking, that it is much more important to be respected than liked.

"When people see the $5 trillion deficit, is there a way that Romney can put it into terms that would affect them in everyday life?" Scott said. One participant who was a Romney supporter said a good way would be to piggyback onto states — like Virginia — that have a plan similar to what Romney and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan share, pointing out that that they would not be able to take credit, they could easily point to the ideas used.

And what if Romney doesn’t win? Did anyone see potential 2016 candidates while watching the convention? Although many have been impressed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, they agreed that her moderate social views would not give her a chance. Some thought that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee placed himself in prime position.

When will Republicans learn what the Democrats did when they brought in Clinton," one participant said. "He was a centrist that appealed to both sides."

Project Pericles is a program committed to promoting civic engagement among all members of the Hendrix community and to enhancing civil discourse at Hendrix about the most challenging issues facing the campus and broader community.