Thursday, October 4, 2012

Romney in Fantasyland at the Debate: Will It Work?


Romney, left, greets Obama at the first debate.

I watched and listened to every word at the debate last night. I came away with this immediate impression:
  • Romney "looked" better, more prepared. However, he did this at some expense. His alpha-male, hard-charging, salesman approach combined the con man with the bully.
  • Romney finally had his Etch-A-Sketch moment, which required him to play fast and loose with the truth. Yes, he seemed in command of the facts. Only problem was that most of them were false. The rest were, ah, what did he actually say? And who's buying it? His supporters? Yes. Obama's supporters? No. The undecideds? Maybe. Maybe, however, is the modus operandi of the undecideds.
  • Obama appeared not up to the task at hand in real time. He did successfully challenge a few points and did work to explain his stands on issues. By and large, though, he almost seemed to cede many points to Romney. Since many of Romney's points were false, it occurred to me that Obama was playing long ball here. I suspected that as the debate went along, his team was feverishly sifting through the vibrant, somewhat overcaffeinated Romney display of scattershot policy mongering, all the while looking for what misstatement would go into tomorrow's ad. (Later in the post I'll show what's already being produced. God, there's so much video!)
  • Was this really rope-a-dope or Obama having a bad night? Hard to tell. I saw a few comments in the Twitterverse and blogosphere that suggested Obama couldn't be the angry black man. Sounds plausible, but in 2012? Maybe for the undecideds. But that's their favorite word: maybe. (Maybe I hate angry black men? Maybe I'll vote for the white bully across the stage? I don't know.)
So that's what I thought about last night. It's easy to start out depressed this morning if you're a disappointed Obama fan -- I am both. But let's look at a few things:

Obama: “Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It is about time.”

How to win friends and influence voters?

Yep, Obama's team was ready. This was out this morning:


Okay, found this on Daily Kos from Bill in Portland Maine, who might be gay (duh). It's unrelated to last night's debate, but food for thought anyway:


Yes, not about the debate, but very appealing and I'm wondering, looking at this web ad: Did Mitt Romney win these people over during the debate? Which misrepresented factoid won over these people? A quicktake gay reaction from a HuffPost writer here. (Gays saw the bullying, BTW.)

I don't know which is more surprising, that "The Situation" is doing a "Jersey Shore" sober, or that Hollywood actually is in the tank for Obama, during and post-debate:


WonkBook on WaPo did a credible job of insta-factchecking An example:
9:09pm: Mitt Romney says he’s not going to cut taxes for the rich. According to the Tax Policy Center, even if he were to cut all tax breaks - save for those he’s promised to preserve - for high-income people, people making over $1 million a year would get an average tax break of $87,117.
This is the kind of fact-checking I like. Straight fact-checking and a very good read. Another good read to parse the debate is NPR's "Romney Goes On Offense, Pays For It In First Wave Of Fact Checks." This backs my theory that, beyond the trad media's "optics," the facts might not settle in Romney's favor over the final weeks -- and remaining two debates.

I don't know who put this up on YouTube, but Andrew Sullivan links to it as an Obama ad:


In undeserved fairness to loudmouth Mitt, Obama out-talked Romney by four minutes, but the above scene captured Romney's petulance.

I like to read Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Dish, to get a different perspective on issues (sift through his "reax" going back, to get a broad picture of debate opinion, Dish-style). Andrew is gay, Catholic, and conservative (in the traditional, not rabid, tea-party sense). He's evolved from supporting Bush and the Iraq War into a Kerry and Obama supporter in the last two elections and has since recanted (with mea culpas) his Iraq-War stance.

Last night he was quite hyper-ventilated at how badly Obama performed and how well Romney did, in spite of the fact that he saw through Romney's flim-flam. He links to an Urtak set of polls he conducted post-debate. Most interesting factoid: 82% of those polled thought Romney won the debate, while 93% of same still intend to vote for Obama. As a good control-group question, 93% of same voted for Obama last time. These are Andrew's readers, so I don't know if that implies that the debate barely moved the needle overall. But it didn't budge for readers of The Dish, apparently.

Obama the day after in Denver, calling Mitt out. Too late?

According to the Huffington Post, Barack went after Romney 13 hours too late. Sizzling quote from Obama's Denver speech:
President Barack Obama is challenging Republican Mitt Romney's candor the morning after their first debate, saying: "If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth."
Obama said at a rally in Denver on Thursday that at the debate he met "this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney." But he says it couldn't have been his Republican rival because he says Romney misrepresented his own position on taxes, education and the outsourcing of jobs.
In tough comments, the president says Romney, quote, "does not want to be held accountable ... because he knows full well that we don't want what he's selling."
This backs my idea that Obama was happy enough to sift through Romney's bunk-apalooza to attack him later. I wonder about such an approach. Rope-a-dope or Monday-morning quarterbacking? We'll see.

The Artful Dodger?

Salon.com fact-checks the debate. I was surprised that none of Obama's facts were disputed.

Salon's Joan Walsh wondered why Obama didn't dispute some of Romney's falsehoods:
Romney shook his Etch-a-Sketch and lied his way through the entire debate with no challenge from moderator Jim Lehrer. He simply denied he has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. He insisted he wouldn’t cut the education budget or Pell Grants, when he will. He claimed the Affordable Care Act raised taxes by a trillion dollars. He essentially revived the idea of death panels by saying Obamacare established “a board that will tell people what kind of treatment they’re going to get.”  Yet the president didn’t call him on any of it.
Yeah, I wondered, too. But, ah, rope-a-dope? My wishful thinking?

Here's Jonathan Chait's reaction:
Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.
I wish I could, but I can't argue with that. Will this be a lasting assessment? Who knows. My tentative assessment is that, in the first debate, Mitt Romney seriously detoured into Fantasyland. Will the voters follow?

I got your black ass, didn't I? You know I did.

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