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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Pre-Debate Spin: Our Guy Stinks, The Other Guy Rocks!



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The first Morning Jolt of the week examines CNN’s decision to use a slain ambassador’s diary as a news source, why the president does so many pop culture interviews, and then this bit of pre-debate expectation-setting:

The Pre-Debate Spin: Our Guy Can Barely Speak, Their Guy Is The Reincarnation of Cicero

The first debate is October 3, and you know what that means: it’s time for each side to hype up the skills of the opposition and downplay their own guy’s skills, in an attempt to manage expectations.

Thankfully, Robert Gibbs is about as believable in this role as he was in his last role, as White House Press Secretary.

A senior Obama campaign adviser said Mitt Romney has a leg up on President Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential debates.

“Mitt Romney I think has an advantage, because he’s been through 20 of these debates in the primaries over the last year,” Gibbs said Sunday on Fox News.

“Having been through this much more recently than President Obama, I think he starts with an advantage,” Gibbs said.

On Air Force One on Monday, Obama campaign press secretary Jen Psaki claimed Romney was doing more preparation for the debates “than any candidate in modern history.”

“They’ve made clear that his performing well is a make-or-break piece for their campaign,” Psaki said of the Romney team’s efforts.

The blogger Scared Monkeys can’t take it anymore: “Gibbs actually said with a straight face that Romney has the advantage over Obama in the debates because he had previously participated in many debates in the GOP primary. The Political Wire has called it the quote of the day. Please, spare us the BS. Obama is a master campaigner and BS’er. Also, how can anyone be considered a favorite when they will have the liberal corrupt MSM complex moderator against them?”

Here’s what Obama does well: He connects with audiences emotionally and his body language is reassuring. As we’ve mentioned, his message – government will do X, Y, and Z for you – is an easier sell. I still remember pundits doing cartwheels over his statement that health care was a “right,” not a “privilege.” Of course, nobody pays for your other rights. You don’t get a government-provided printing press, television state, firearm, or house to refuse quarter to troops in, etc. It’s one of those lines that sounds delightful to the low-information voters who don’t want to think too hard about how you pay for it, or even how that care can be provided in a country already facing a worsening doctor shortage.

When Obama gets cornered on an issue where the facts are tough for him, he just lies, i.e., “Fast and Furious” didn’t start on my watch, “All you’ve done is send China our jobs,” etc.  If there’s anything we’ve learned this cycle, it’s that nobody cares what the fact-checkers write in their columns a day later.

Obama probably has a slight edge in the debates, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Romney do well.

The GOP nominee really excels when he does his homework, like when he pointed out that Gingrich has the same investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that were the centerpiece of his attacks on Romney. (Thus, all of the lengthy preparation shortage. Maybe he’s hoping to be his own fact-checker, correcting Obama’s lies in real-time.)

And he attacks well, as Gingrich noted recently:

Newt Gingrich on Friday urged Mitt Romney to go after President Barack Obama in next month’s debates with a gusto the former House speaker knows well.

“When he walks in to debate Obama, he’s got to be as tough with Obama as he was with me in Florida,” Gingrich said in an interview on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

After all, Gingrich said, Romney “is not in a competition to be likeable.”

“He’s in a competition to be capable,” Gingrich said. “We need somebody who can turn America around. We need him to convince us that a Romney recovery is better than an Obama stagnation. Unless he can do that, I don’t care how much effort they spend trying to make him likeable – it won’t work.

ADDENDA: I admire the honesty in CNN’s Jim Acosta as he contemplates his Redskins’ loss: “Not that I’m making excuses, but the Skins were without [receiver Pierre] Garcon and [linebacker Brian] Orakpo… two key playmakers. ..Okay, I’m making excuses.”


Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Robert Gibbs


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