Thursday, September 27, 2012

Now it's Romney's turn to manage debate expectations

By Richard K. Barry 

Why do they bother? Why do they waste energy saying that big bad President Obama is such a great talker that Mitt Romney will be lucky to finish the debate without soiling himself? I know. That's what they all do. I just wish they wouldn't.

Here's the latest from longtime Romney advisor Beth Myers, as reported by CNN, in a memo she sent to the network:

President Obama is "widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history."  

"This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first."

"Four years ago, Barack Obama faced John McCain on the debate stage. According to Gallup, voters judged him the winner of each debate by double-digit margins, and their polling showed he won one debate by an astounding 33-point margin."

Myers argues that Obama will "use his ample rhetorical gifts and debating experience to one end: attacking Mitt Romney."

"We fully expect a 90-minute attack ad aimed at tearing down his opponent," she writes in the memo.

Pushing back against emerging conventional wisdom, Myers concludes that the debates will not, in fact, decide the election: "It will be decided by the American people," she says.

One of the reasons the debates won't decide anything is that, I suspect, this bear is already decided.

My guess is that the debates will be a big yawn. Obama won't give Romney a chance for anything close to a knockout blow and, even if he did, Romney is too plodding to take advantage of it. How's that for a boxing metaphor?

Another guess is that the best Romney can do, and maybe this is the point of managing expectations, is that some voters will come away thinkings Mitt didn't entirely suck. But I'll bet you $10,000 the debates won't change a thing.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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