President Obama didn't seem prepared for Mitt Romney's approach to their first debate, but I wonder if Obama and his team failed to bring up Romney "47%" remark because they saw this coming:
Mitt Romney came full circle on his "47 percent" remarks Thursday night, calling them "just completely wrong" in an interview on Fox News.Whatever you think of Obama's strategy, we can assume he wanted to seem dignified and presidential in the debate. He seems to think he's freer to be combative and feisty at campaign rallies (as he was yesrterday in Denver).
When asked by host Sean Hannity what he would have said if President Barack Obama had brought up the controversial comments in the first presidential debate, the Republican nominee said that such stumbles happen while campaigning, and "in this case, I said something that's just completely wrong."
Echoing a line he had used previously to mitigate the remarks' fallout, Romney told Hannity that he cares about the "100 percent."
And maybe that's not crazy. He's campaigning to win votes, not to impress us or the Beltway insiders, and he may have a sophisticated sense of which approaches, in which contexts, turn off the voters he's trying to reach.
Now, I think he could have fought back a lot harder in the debate without losing his dignity. But on "47%," he certainly knew Romney would come back with something about caring for the 100% -- and what does he say then? "You did so mean it!" "Did not!" "Did so!" Obviously he's not going to use those exact words, but is that how any challenge would seem after a Romney walkback that actually would have appeared (if you fell for it) contrite? (And I think a lot of swing voters might have fallen for the faux-contrition.)
Now, as it turns out, Romney's high-profile walkback plays right into Obama's message from yesterday afternoon, about a fake Romney pretending to be the real Mitt Romney. Yes, Obama could have improvised some way of addressing this Wednesday night. But, well, Obama's a strategizer, not an improviser. He's got a strategy in place now. It should hold unless we get another other Romney in future debates.
The video of Romney's full Hannity interview is at Fox Nation. I see that Hannity didn't raise a single objection when Romney said the remark was "completely wrong."
Which is odd, because when the "47%" tape was leaked, Hannity thought it was brilliant:
HANNITY: I, for one, in spite of the hysteria and the absolute madness that you see in your sellout, failed-you, Obamamania, thrill-up-your-leg, you know, semi-orgasmic media -- is wrong. And I bet that this is a tipping point in terms of the actual election. They're reading it wrong. The same America that embraced welfare reform under Clinton are gonna side with Romney on this.... This is not a bad thig. This tape, frankly, for Romney, in the end will be seen as a godsend.So Romney's not the only one flip-flopping on this.
In fact lots of right-wing commentators thought Romney's remarks were on target and politically astute -- but as long as they think Romney might be doing better in the polls, they'll say nothing and back him on this walkback. If he slips in the polls now, or loses in November, then they'll criticize the walkback -- as will Hannity (even though he said nothing in real time). They'll point to it as prime evidence that Romney lost because he's a wussy little moderate and what Republicans really needed was a real conservative to run against Obama. Hell, they'll even say that Obama didn't bring up the "47%" remark in the debate because he knew it was helping Romney.
Oh, and how big a clown is Hannity? I was looking at the extended interview, and at one point, just after the Romney walkback (at about 8:34 in the second video here, if you can bear it), Hannity says this to Romney:
HANNITY: You were saying some very specific things about how to increase revenues to the government, how to balance the budget, including putting the 716 billion dollars back into Medicare, not gutting our defenses, keeping tax rates low and cutting taxes for the middle class....I'm speechless. Hannity talks about increasing tax revenues to balance the budget, then lists four budget-busting items as ways to do that? Wow, right-wingers really do live in a dream world -- and do their level best to make us live in it, too.