Monday, October 08, 2012


With regard to the upcoming presidential debates, Jonathan Chait thinks President Obama is doooooomed:
The next debate is a town-hall meeting. Obama's campaign is talking up its plan to roll out a new, tougher Obama who will challenge Romney's slick evasions. But a town-hall meeting is a whole different animal. In a one-on-one debate, you can fillet your opponent. A town-hall meeting consists of undecided voters pressing the candidates for answers. The focus of the event is on answering the questions of the voters. Using their questions to assail your opponent is bad form -- indeed, the Regular Voters who ask the questions, and serve as proxies for the public, can be counted on to implore the candidates to stop attacking each other so much. Romney will use the town hall to proclaim his deep and abiding concern for all of America, and Obama will have little chance to disprove it.
But isn't "using the questions to assail your opponent" precisely what Romney did all through the last debate? I know he kept his rage under control, and he got off a lot of canned-sounding expressions of "his deep and abiding concern for all of America" -- but he also directed jab after jab at Obama. Now, I'm not ruling out the fact that, after becoming "the new Romney" in the debate, Romney might manage to become a newer new Romney, one who doesn't gleefully attack his opponent, and just sings paeans to America and its marvelous common folk. But if attacks are going to hurt him in a town hall, avoiding them is going to require another huge pivot.

Meanwhile, as Paul Waldman notes, Obama in 2008 was quite good at the town hall format:
I went back and watched the 2008 town hall debate between Obama and John McCain.... Obama was smooth, assured, and engaged..... Obama glided easily from one questioner to another, and did a terrific job of focusing on the person who asked each question, keeping his attention on them and explaining his positions in a way that was substantive but still plain-spoken.
As Waldman notes, engaging one-on-one is not exactly Romney's strong suit.


And what about the third debate, which will be on foreign policy? Romney's winning praise for moving to the center in last week's debate, and for seeming to do a better job of addressing ordinary voters' concerns. But can you seriously look at today's big Romney foreign-policy speech and think Mitt is closer to where ordinary voters are?
Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.

In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence....

The President has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months....

We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds....

America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them...
Does Romney think that's what undecided voters, particularly swing voters, want to hear? That America should become more immersed in Middle Eastern conflicts, on behalf of friends (or potential friends) most Americans can't really distinguish from our enemies?

That's not going to get him a bump in the polls. Americans cheered the bin Laden raid and tolerate the drone strikes, but they're burned out after what seems like a dozen-year quagmire. More of that -- unless he pivots again later this month (which I'm not ruling out) -- is what Romney seems to be selling.


Victor said...

Sorrounding yourself with John Bolton and Dan Senor should automatically discount you as knowing anything about how diplomacy fits in with foreign policy.

Foreign policy is more than just lobbing bombs and sending in troops.

Those two evil assclowns never met a war they didn't love - as long as it was their ass that didn't have to get shot at.

And someone needs to ask Mitt, that great patriot, why he went to France for missionary work, after protesting FOR the Vietnam War - and why not one of this great patriots 5 sons went into the military?

General Stuck said...

Chait is meeting his concern troll quota. In foggy village environs that says the first debate is most important. It was for Obama in 2008, as well as McCain, but Obama has 4 years of presidentin" under his belt, and the public kind of get how he does at that job. And I don't agree that the Town Hall debate forum has to be a straight Q and A for the audience. The answers are needed, but no rule for rubbing your opponents nose in it, as a contrast.