Don’t Bother Watching: Barack’s Campaign Concedes First Debate to Mitt

You heard it here first. Actually, second. Via InstaP:

Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter:

“[W]e’re coming into this debate very realistic that Mitt Romney is likely to win if he plays his cards right. If he performs and fills in those details and has that [conversation] with the American people, instead of having, you know, a punching match and just leveling insults at the President like he’s done over the past two years. If he fills in his policy details, talks in specifics about his plans for the future he could win this debate.”

In other words, if Romney doesn’t get in his own way, doesn’t play dirty, and argues his case and the facts, he wins on his merits and the Obama presidency’s lack of them.

Now, Elizabeth Price Foley at InstaP thinks it’s a Rope-a-Dope, to goad Romney into throwing all the punches, committing to policy prescriptions that the Obama campaign can easily dismantle if not demagogue. She prefers Romney to treat the Obama presidency as a punching bag:

1. A complete inability/unwillingness to own up to the threat of the “t” word– terrorism

2. A complete disconnect with the desires of the American public re: health care reform

3. A dangerous policy of downplaying the Iranian nuclear threat at the expense of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East and one of America’s closest (and most important) allies

4. An utter disregard for the Constitution, as evidenced by executive orders that completely undercut the legislative branch

5. A completely failing economy, by any measure you prefer– jobs, GDP, median household income, deficits, downgraded credit rating, etc.

I like both strategies meself, although not exactly these particular points. I think Mitt will take it slow and display aggression only when needed—the one thing he learned in quietly losing to McCain in 2008—sometimes you have to hit back, and when you do you hit back hard. Mitt did it this time around to his primary challengers in 2012: when one rose up he smacked him down, with deadly force.

I think Mitt’s mastered his temperament, that huffing and puffing eager beaver gasping for air as he says too much instead of a confident too little.

This is Mitt’s first time on the Big Stage, The Really Big Stage, for all the marbles. Primaries and conventions ain’t spit. This time, the whole world is watching, not just the malignly curious and the Values Voters who leave Fox News on in the den or in the kitchen 24/7.

It’s a pity the US presidency comes down to acting ability, but political leadership has always been so. George Washington had his uniforms tailored and rode a big white horse. FDR was the jaunty cigarette holder, the aristocrat who loved the common man—and could win for him. Churchill the speechifying bulldog was an act that saved the world; de Gaulle admitted that archetypical Frenchman was a character he created. Reagan, the Aw Shucks president, Clinton the amiable bumpkin with an IQ of 165, Bush43 the cowboy boots ex-drunk who saw through all the BS; Barack Obama, our FBP with two autobios under his belt before he’d done anything besides get born, go to school, and drift about a bit trying to find himself.

The funny thing is that Mitt the Mormon is really a lot like those stories they ginned up about George Washington. If you heard that Mitt Romney chopped down a cherry tree and copped to it when his dad pressed him on it, you’d believe it.

And find it boring as hell. I don’t know if the joke is on him or on us.

“[W]e’re coming into this debate very realistic that Mitt Romney is likely to win if he plays his cards right.”

Just play ’em straight, Mitt. It’s the only thing you have going for you, and hey, it might just be enough.

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past contributor to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.


  1. I think you take all this pre-debate expectations gamesmanship a bit too seriously. It’s political silly season where the campaigns downplay their candidate’s debating ability versus the other guy. Mitt’s folks are doing the same thing. Except for Chris Christie, bless his heart. I’m looking forward to his 2016 campaign. Seriously–I do actually like the guy.

    As for your advice to Mitt to play it straight–that’s pretty much his problem. He’s changed his story so many times, nobody much believes him, particularly conservatives. As Tod pointed out in his Values Voter piece, almost none of the folks he talked to thought Mitt was the real conservative deal. So no matter what Mitt shows up, a good portion of the audience will likely find him disingenuous.

    So, we’ll see how it goes, silly expectations games asides, on Wednesday. In 2004, Kerry kicked Bush’s ass in the first debate, for all the good it did him.

  2. The challenger has an advantage in the first debate against an incumbent: elevation. By taking on the President of the United States as an equal, the challenger is elevated from being a Mere Candidate into Presidential Material. Everyone envisions the challenger as President. The more formal the setting of the first debate, the greater that effect is for the challenger.

  3. A genuine question for the masses: What is the point of the debates for the candidates themselves? What are they seeking to accomplish? Is there a universal goal? Or does it vary candidate to candidate and election to election? Most broadly, what is the purpose of debates?

  4. Ecclesiastes 1:9. Bill Walsh used to do this every week against teams that everyone knew they’d beat by 30 points.

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