I debated in high school and judged debates when I was in college. Sometimes the best speakers lose because they dropped a point, or had their evidence successfully challenged. These policy debates at the high school and collegiate level are not moderated, but the debaters follow strict time rules for each speech within the debate. Last night, unlike a good high school or college debate the candidates disrespected the rules and ignored the moderator. The result was that Mitt took the gloves off, put the flip-flops on, contradicting his previous positions as he has so adeptly done throughout this campaign, and made a bunch of stuff up. And he won, you know why? The moderator and the President did not challenge Mitt sufficiently. Obama dropped too many points and did not bring up some of the more important ones. He didn’t emphasize his accomplishments. And he did not attack.
Romney must have had some coffee (which I don’t think Mormons can drink – I could be wrong) because he was perky and hyperactive. President Obama looked tired and annoyed and in need of some Five Hour Energy. He spoke slowly, without much passion. His arguments weren’t crisp as they had been in previous debates four years ago. He didn’t seem prepared. Nor did it seem that Team Obama had a good strategy. David Plouffe explaining why the President didn’t bring up the 47% said that the nation had already heard that and they didn’t feel like they needed to go there. The strategy seemed to be to just show up, keep cool, be Presidential and let Romney self-destruct.
But that didn’t happen. Instead Romney just made stuff up that went unchallenged. He said that he would not cut taxes on the rich, and then said he would lower taxes on everyone. He gave no specifics on the deductions he would have to eliminate in the tax code to make the numbers start to add up, and neither the moderator nor the President pressed him on it. Romney just took the most popular parts of Obamacare and called it his plan. The President tried to call him on it but fumbled the rebuttal. And there was no mention of Bain, union busting, immigration policy (which has economic implications) or Romney’s eye brow raising tax returns.
Maybe Team Obama wanted to lose. Maybe this was a carefully designed strategy to lower expectations so much that by the next debate, if the President gets in one zinger, he wins. Not a very good strategy. Who is advising him anyway? Is it the same guy who put Clint Eastwood on the stage at the RNC?
Time to wake up, President Obama. Forget your close advisers. Come out swinging next time. Find your competitive spirit. Consult the Georgetown debate team who won the 2012 National Debate Tournament. And for the next debate, take some 5 Hour Energy or Red Bull and put Team Romney away.