It’s time to Break It Down!
The four-debate series between this year’s Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates has ended. Monday evening President Obama and Governor Romney met for the third and final debate between the two Presidential candidates; Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan held center stage a couple of weeks ago.
Foreign Policy was Mondaynight’s theme; Bob Schieffer of CBS’s Face the Nation was the moderator. The candidates, having each won one of the previous debates, faced off for the rubber match at Lynn Universityin Boca Raton, Florida. Boca Raton was the location of the meeting where Romney made the now infamous 47% comments; interesting irony. It was quite a show.
Not being a political operative, I am occasionally perplexed by the advice given to candidates, and the subsequent strategic initiatives they ensue. Remember the first debate in Denver? How could you forget? Even if you didn’t see it (I’m sure it lives on YouTube), at least one of the countless renditions surely found you. In the unlikely event you forgot…or missed it, the CliffsNotes summary is President Obama, presumably upon the advice of handlers who believed the campaign held a comfortable lead, opted to play it conservatively and “sit on his lead”
The result was he delivered a dreadful performance that, should he manage to win onNovember 6th, will likely go down the personal low point of his first term in office. That is in part because in this ultra-partisan environment, the Right managed to seize the post debate narrative, and have controlled it since then. They characterized Willard Romney’s debate performance as transcendently brilliant, and conversely painted the President as uninterested, disengaged, somnambulant and at the same time arrogant.
Not surprisingly, I disagree with those characterizations of the President. At least to the extent that I do not believe he demonstrated any of those adjectives. He was victimized by his own Team, which saddled him with bad advice, and a worse strategic design. Still, as noted above, his performance was, dreadful; atrocious even. I submit that by itself, that one event fundamentally changed the trajectory of the Obama Campaign vis-à-visthe Romney Campaign in the 2012 Race for the Presidency.
In fact, Team Obama has yet to fully recover. Moreover, if Governor Romney becomes the President-Electafter the November 6thelection, it is certainly my opinion that his victory can be traced back to October 3rd, and his resounding victory in the first of the debates.
But I digress. The point here is that on Monday evening, Willard Romney boldly, or at least shrewdly, stole a page out of the Obamaplaybook. The Governor has been widely panned, by Democrats and by many Republicansalike, for shifting positions for his convenience and perhaps more often for political expediency. Many of the Governor’s GOP Primary opponents citied his unctuousness as theyassailed him in the Party’s 20 Primarydebates. His performance in the first Presidential debate seemed to set the Gold Standard for deconstructing his previous positions, and reinventing himself on-the-fly.
Alas,Monday evening, based, presumably like President Obama in the first debate, upon the advice of handlers, the Governordecided to sit on his momentum, in the process hoping to persuade women and independent voters that he will not lead the Country into more wars…and by doing so, garner their votes. I have no idea whether this stratagem will yield its desired result.
Alternately, what I am certain of is that the Governor Romney of the Republican Primaries, and pre-debate Presidential campaign was a bellicosesaber-rattler who described himself as severely conservative. He chided President Obama for establishing a timetable for leaving Afghanistan, he bashed him for opting not to leave 10,000or more troops in Iraq, he suggested the United States should not take extraordinary measures to find Osama bin Laden, and he asserted that if bin Laden were found in Pakistan, we should seek permission from the Pakistanisbefore pursuing him there.
President Obama took actions employing the opposite of Governor Romney’s original and long-held positions on those issues. On these, and a host of other matters, Governor Romney praised and/or agreed with President Obama Monday night, all, ostensibly, in a strategic effort to avoid attacking President Obama in this, if you ask those loyal to Mr. Romney, “unimportant” Foreign Policy Debate. It is, of course, interesting that the debate became in full-throated unisonlabeled unimportant by Romney-ites, after the polls showed that President Obamawon.
Forthree weeks now, Republicans across the spectrum have been on a variety of news shows, brazenly looking directly into the camera and stoutly denying that the litany of “brand new” positions being spouted by Willard Romney represent any shift, change, or alteration of his previously held positions. I understand the nature of politics is that circumstances and new information may result in one revising his or her positions. Indeed, that is the nature of the political universe. However, in most instances, when such arcs of change occur, the pivoter at least owns up to and explains the change(s) or deviation(s); especially upon direct questioning. Not Governor Romney, nor his boosters! What I find most alarming about these hocus-pocusantics is that the vaunted Fourth Estate are loathe to hold the Governor, or his handlers, or his operatives, or his supporters accountable for this outrageously rank disingenuousness.
Quickly, to summarize the snap poll results of Monday’s debate, CNN viewers, whichoversampled Republicans, said President Obama won the debate. The spread was:
· Winner 48% – 40%President Obama
· Leadership 51% -46% President Obama
· Likeability 48%- 47% President Obama
· Attacked more68% – 21% President Obama
· Can handleCommander-in-Chief 63% – 60% President Obama
· Did better than expected 59% – 44% President Obama
In the CBS News Instant Poll of uncommitted voters, President Obama scored a more decisive victory. The spread was:
- Winner 53% – 23%President Obama
- Better handle terrorism and national security 64% – 36% President Obama
- Trust to handle an international crisis 71% – 49% President Obama
- Better handle China 50% – 50%
In reviewing the overarching debate series, President Obama and Vice President Biden were deemed to have won three of the four contests. With only 13 days remaining before Election Day, and with Early Voting already underway in a host of states, the race remains tight, and the outcome uncertain. A number of Republicans are engaging in psychological warfare, continuing to utilize the advantage gained after the first debate to attempt to shape the campaign narrative. Almost as if planting a pre-hypnotic suggestion, they assert that their polling indicatesGovernor Romney has surpassed President Obama, and some add that by November 6th, the gap will be even greater.
Maybe; maybe not! Regardless of whom you support, don’t get ahead of yourself. Most important, exercise your franchiseand vote. The Poll-of-Polls is the one that talliesthe post-election results, and ultimately, the only one that really matters.. We’ll know in due time; it is certainly not over yet. If you follow the polls, learn to recognize the distinction between national polls, and those from swing states; appreciate the importance of the latter. I think (hope) you get the point.
When then Governor Ronald Reagan ran, and succeeded at winning the Presidencyin 1980, an actor went on to occupy the White House. In my view, nothing better highlights the “Etch-A-Sketch” character of Governor Romney than his comments duringMonday night’s encounter with President Obama.
AsVan Jones, a former Obama Administration official said on theCNN post-debate show, “If this debate had gone on for 30 more minutes, Romney was going to endorse Obama.”
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