Saturday, September 29, 2012

Debate prep is in high gear

By Richard K. Barry

Careful, Professor.

The New York Times ran a story yesterday about Mitt Romney's and Barack Obama's debate prep. They say that Romney's team is attempting to engineer moments in the debates that will provide an opportunity for "zingers" that Romney has memorized and been practicing since August.

His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.

At the same time, they report, Romney's people are trying to make sure Mitt doesn't come across as a "scold." 

His sparring partner, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, channeling Mr. Obama, has gone after him repeatedly, to the point of being nasty. The goal is to get Mr. Romney agitated and then teach him how to keep his composure, look presidential.

As for Obama's preparation, his side is trying to get him to cut his answers down, "give crisper" explanations, warning him that "no one wants a professor, they want a president."

I've been saying this for a while that Obama's strategy would be to get Mitt annoyed as Romney looks like a privileged jerk whenever he thinks anyone is getting in his face. He gets that "how dare you" look, like he can't believe someone with his wealth and standing has to put up with this.

As for Obama, debates are not primarily about oratory, which means any assessment of his mediocre debating skills suffers when compared to his significant oratorical skill. The more he pontificates and potentially bores people, the more people might wonder what all the excitement was about in the first place. His people are right. Keep it short.

Since sports metaphors seem to be the thing in discussing these debates, I'll offer these: Romney is behind and needs to press in order to have a chance. When you press, you make mistakes. Obama is ahead and only need to play prevent defence to keep things where they are. But, as we all know, prevent defense prevents you from winning if you forget to play the kind of game that put you in the lead to begin with.

Should be interesting.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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