Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Conservative debate watchers have a point, but...

On one hand, I am pissed that Republican spin on the last debate is getting some credence in the media -- Politico and ABC both retailed the hypothesis that the debate might strengthen Romney's position, since he came across as credible an unscary -- and the electorate doesn't much care about foreign policy.

On the other hand, I think that the conservative analysis digested by the Dish -- by Douthat, Levin, Lowry and Ponnuru -- has some validity. Lowry summarizes their collective take well:
I think Romney executed what must have been his strategy nearly flawlessly: reassure people that he’s not a bomb-thrower; project strength but not bellicosity; go out of his way to say how many Obama policies he agrees with to create a sense of his reasonableness; focus on the big picture of a world that seems out of control; get it back to the economy as much as possible; and communicate a real passion for the future.
In fact, my own reaction to Romney's performance, taken by itself, was somewhat similar.  I disagree, though, with this from Levin, and in that disagreement lies hope:

Romney’s only goal was to seem presidential, and Obama’s only goal was to make Romney seem not presidential.
Obama, I think, had a second goal: to show himself rejuvenated and ready for a second term.  Raising doubts about Romney's expertise and instincts and (most crucially) credibility was only the baseline.  Regardless of whether Americans care much, relatively, about foreign policy until it comes and bites them, the subject presented a showcase for Obama in an area of at least perceived strength. And so my hope is that Obama projected enough energy and vision and toughness and mastery to make some appreciable slice of the undecideds who may have leaned toward Romney after the first debate think again.

Wish is father to the thought here, but I'm hoping that three debate wins for Obama and Biden following the perceived crushing defeat in the first debate may have a cumulative effect -- hammering Romney's policy shifts, deceptively "sketchy" "plans" and relentless out-and-out lying -- while articulating Obama's core commitments to the middle class and investment in education, research and infrastructure more forcefully in each iteration.  As Nate Silver says, a one-point or even half-point bounce at this stage would be huge.

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