I’m watching the debate tonight and I’m thinking two things.
The first thing is, whichever color hat I put on, I think the guy on my team did okay. If I take off both hats, I don’t see either guy being a winner. Romney did a good job of sticking to his frame, Obama didn’t hit him in the two spots where he ought, but neither guy melted down and nobody went firebrand. A draw, or perhaps a couple of minor points to Mitt, but he’s in a 15 round heavyweight fight and he’s lost the first 8. Can’t win this one on points.
So, if I’m working for Mr. Romney, I’m rubbing his shoulders and saying (in Burgess Meredith voice, of course), “Yer doin’ okay out there, kid, but okay ain’t gonna cut it. He’s the champ. You gotta beat the champ to take the belt. You were aggressive and that was good but it ain’t good enough. The middle folks don’t buy the $700 billion from Medicare bit, they’re not going to fall for that accusation against a Democrat, and nobody in his right mind believes that a President is going to lose 700,000 jobs willingly from a policy decision. That number is ‘way too big. You got 7 rounds left, you better think of a way to land a big blow or it’s in the tank and your shot is gone.” I’d give him specific advice, but I don’t have any.
If I’m working for Mr. Obama, on the other hand, I’m looking at him square in the eye and I say this, “You coulda ended this one tonight, kid, and you didn’t do it. You hit the right point, but you didn’t follow. People buy the arithmetic line. You framed it right; he’s talking about cutting taxes and keeping mounds of spending and he’s expecting the growth in GDP to bail him out. The thing is, it’s a line that someone in the middle who naturally leans right can still hold onto, it’s an article of faith. You gotta kill the faith, kid. You won on faith last time around, you know how powerful faith is.
Here’s what you do, you play the next one tight. He’s gonna have to swing, at some point, let him stick his hand out and then clobber him. You know the punches he’s got, and you know now that he’s testing below the belt, and you wait for the next time and you nail him when he tries it. If he plays it tight, you’re good. If he scores any hits, you take him in the last debate.
The start of the last debate, when they go into the economy, and give you your two minutes, here’s what you say:
‘In the first debate, Governor Romney insisted that he could cut taxes and not significantly reduce spending, and still reduce the deficit. He claims that he can do this because his policies will increase GDP to the point where revenues will go up, even with reduced taxes. Now, it’s pretty clear that I find this a dubious approach, and I think the ‘trickle down’ economy theory has already been shown not to work, but that’s the thing about America, it’s not up to me and what I believe, it’s up to the American voter and what they believe.
So maybe you believe that Mr. Romney’s plan is going to work. Maybe you believe that he can do it. But I think the American people have the right to ask Governor Romney a question, and they’re not here, so I’ll ask it on their behalf. Here’s the question, Mr. Romney… if you become President, and you put your policies in place, and a year goes by and you don’t get the growth you expect, what are you going to do then? Are you going to balloon the debt, or are you going to give up that two trillion dollars you’re looking to add to the military budget, or are you going to raise taxes? Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from being President, it’s that your plans sometimes have to adjust to what happens, and I gotta say, I don’t think your plan is going to survive your first year as you present it now. How will you adjust?”
And then, when you get to health care, you say this, ‘Governor Romney and I have a difference of opinion about Medicare, too. He claims that reverting Medicare to the states can save the federal government a pile of money. Now, I look around the country and I see the state of California with huge budget problems. I see the state of Nevada with budget problems. In fact, there are 31 states that have projected shortfalls in the upcoming year. So my question for Governor Romney is, after he hands Medicare off to the states, when these 31 states can’t raise the revenue to keep Medicare afloat in their states, with their fiscal problems, what are you going to do?’
‘Cause kid, you kill faith with doubt. And he’s got no answer to those questions.