Wondering what your President is going to do tonight that’s different from what you saw in the first debate? Not only is President Obama ready for The Other Mitt this time, but his team is in place to do real time fact-checking and post debate commentary. The Obama campaign is going to control the messaging better this time around.
This debate will be different due to the town hall format that favors Obama in the sense that he does best when talking to the people, whereas talking to people instead of at them is a challenge for Romney.
But it will also be different for several other reasons. Team Obama knows that Romney might come to the debate as The Other Mitt, the one who wants more teachers and isn’t going to give a tax cut to the rich that he can’t pay for. Romney only got one shot at disavowing all that he is, and he played that card already.
Chicago says, “President Obama will use tonight’s debate to talk about what we’ve accomplished over the last four years to rebuild our economy and restore middle class security, and his specific plans for the next four years to continue moving our country forward. He’ll also hold Mitt Romney accountable for dishonestly trying to mislead voters about his positions, which would take us back to the same failed policies that crashed our economy and punished the middle class.”
The post debate fallout has been rough going for Romney in the media, though it’s tough to say if the brutal factchecking has made a dent in his image yet. But that’s where Romney is at risk tonight – he will not be let off of the hook so readily tonight if he continues his “six studies what tax cut” routine.
Chicago isn’t leaving factchecking up to the whim of the media; they’re doing real time factchecking on Twitter via @OFAdebates.
Team Obama is also not going to let pundits shape the narrative without input from his surrogates, who will be on hand and ready to factcheck and spin immediately after the debate. The Obama surrogates who will be in the house tonight are:
• David Axelrod, Obama for America Senior Strategist
• Rep. Karen Bass (D, CA-33)
• Rep. Xavier Becerra (D, CA-31)
• Stephanie Cutter, Obama for America Deputy Campaign Manager
• Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), OFA national campaign co-chair
• Patrick Gaspard, DNC Executive Director
• Robert Gibbs, Obama for America Senior Advisor
• Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
• Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager
• Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD), Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
• Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA), OFA national campaign co-chair
• David Plouffe, 2008 Obama for America Campaign Manager
• Jen Psaki, Obama for America Traveling Press Secretary
• Mayor Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta
• Cecilia Rouse, Princeton University Economist
• Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
• Governor Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor and OFA national campaign co-chair
• Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D, MD-8)
• Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D, NY-12)
• Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles and OFA national campaign co-chair
• DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, FL-20)
Obama will come prepared tonight, but he will also be who he is. Obama doesn’t do rude, belligerent wannabe gladiator at the Colosseum going for the kill instead of the win. Obama’s ego is not that hungry or crude. This is what makes him the kind of diplomat that can get things done, like the tough sanctions on Iran that are strangling its economy. Real strength doesn’t make a braying, Bushian spectacle of itself.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney put on a great show in the last debate, but it was all yap and no bite. He “won” by lying outright about his positions and plans and by aggressively attacking Obama, just as he aggressively attacked our allies in his foreign policy debacle tour and just as he cravenly issued a statement about Libya before the facts were out just to score political points. In both of the last two examples, Romney managed to make an international fool of himself. I would argue he made a fool of himself in the first debate as well, since he felt he had to present a completely false image of himself, but apparently this is what passes for “winning” with the American media so I’ll give Romney his first political win of the entire campaign season. He was certainly due for one after the summer of unforced errors.
Of course, Romney doesn’t see it that way, and the greedy buoyancy with which he attacks the truth shows that he thinks he’s invincible and the American people are fools. If they are foolish enough to buy his carnival barking snake oil, it’s only because our media let them down. But Romney made what I believe could be a fatal mistake in thinking that the media wouldn’t rebel at being played for fools. He’s already been taken to task by even Fox News for refusing to divulge the details of his secret tax plan.
Mitt Romney has to navigate the treacherous waters of talking to real voters tonight, but luckily for him, their microphones will be turned off after they ask their pre-approved questions. This will help him avoid throwing his “It’s my turn” tantrum, but if there’s one thing Mitt Romney has proven he’s good at, it’s ruining an easy thing with over-confidence and self-delusion.
No matter how wildly Romney yaps tonight, Obama is ready for him and the media is awakening from their stenographer’s coma. Just in case, though, team Obama is standing at the ready to clarify the facts and yes, spin. Apparently our media and the public require spin to win. A calm discussion of the facts doesn’t make good TV and it won’t win you the job as leader of the free world. Oh, no — you’ve gotta spin those sound bites so the media has something to chew other than your hide.
Join us tonight for PoliticusUSA’s live chat during the debate, starting at 8PM.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.