Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obama, you're taking too many punches kid!

This is a political post. 

I would like to believe that the President is employing some kind of political rope-a-dope in this situation, letting his opponent talk himself into a corner. But watching last night I think Obama got caught flat footed by Romney - who presented yet another version of himself that I don't think anyone saw coming.

Romney won. I think this despite the fact that there is something about his voice that I find generally annoying. I'm not sure if its his patter, his cadence, or what, but there is something there that I find unsettling. And despite that I still think he debated the President to a standstill. But then that maybe because Romney last night didn't sound anything like the Romney of the past few weeks as he denounced his own previous statements multiple times from the podium. Suddenly he's for regulation? When did this happen?

Jim Lehrer didn't help, letting both candidates go over time, talk over one another and dance around questions as though they trying out for the Russian ballet. I think the next moderator should have a little buzzer and if the candidate hasn't started actually answering the question in 30 seconds they get buzzed, the moderator repeats the question and says quite clearly "That's not an answer, try again." After their third try the moderator just turns their mic off.

But the first round is over, and Obama's corner men need to man up and tell him he sucked last night. He took a lot of jabs, didn’t move his feet. Obama is going to need to counter-punch, work the body and do all of the following:

1. Facts to back up facts.

Romney's budget plan, one which is too complicated to explain to anyone, does haves a five trillion dollar tax break. This figure comes from the estimated revenue loss created by making the current tax cuts permanent, Romney's proposed twenty percent additional reduction, and the elimination of the estate tax, all over a ten year period. It's not set in stone because Romney has been cagey with specifics. Obama should have known this is where the number comes from, who created the math, and been able to hold Romney to that figure. Or where any statement he was going to make is based on, so that when called on it he could easily respond. This is bad prep, plain and simple.    

2. Add Logic to the Discussion.

When Romney trotted out that old Republican chestnut that "profits create jobs", I wanted to cheer because this is the easiest of all topics go at with a logic weedwacker* in the past three years. Basic economics - markets create jobs, not profits. But the President didn't start educating, touting instead his own efforts to cut taxes. Because I doubt the next moderator will be as easy, he may have missed his chance, but whenever possible Obama needs to be able to in the Clinton-ian style walk people through the logical flaw (or question) in thirty seconds or less.

3. Employ Republican tactics.

The Republican party has for the past decade used the fairly simple idea of "if you repeat it often enough, then people will think it is true." In the debate, time and time again Romney repeated the idea that “he is for jobs” at least five times. Early on one phrase of the President's caught my ear - Economic Patriotism - but he never used it again. Obama is going to need two or three phrases which he can repeat over and over, that he segues to with ease to hammer home the idea he will be the better President. 

4. Let the Truth ring out.

When the President mentioned his use of Romneycare as a model for the Affordable Healthcare Act,  Romney turned it into a study of his own collaborative works. Obama should leapt on the chance to use this to delineate the difference that he's clearly received no support at all, if not outright hostile opposition from his Republican colleagues, since he's taken office. Idea put forth : Democrats work with you, Republicans don’t. Instead, we got nothing. Obama shouldn’t be afraid to state things that everyone can check for themselves.

5. Watch your language.

The President should be aware, as should his whole team, that any bad phrasing will be exploited by the opposition. After all, they made a bad juxtaposition of words into the theme of their convention. And Romney’s attempt at a "you are no JFK" moment in stating he doesn’t know of a tax break for taking jobs overseas should serve as a clear warning. I’m politically knowledgeable, and I realize the idea trying to be put forth is that we have granted to tax breaks to firms who then took jobs overseas anyways. Not stating it clearly is a gaffe. Language is very important. And not being able to correct him was just more of the previous bad prep work.                                       

In the future, Obama needs to prep not for Mitt Romney, but for the audience. Romney has demonstrated that he is not gonna be who any evidence has shown him to be. One can predict the usual questions, so prep to defend the administration's positions with short answers, and personal real people stories where appropriate.

Now, there are a lot people who think the race is already over, and that Obama has already won. Mathematically speaking, he should take the electoral college handily, but nothing is set in stone. There are still a few tricks left than be played that can make a difference, and a little difference is all that’s needed for the election to go into overtime. I realize Obama doesn’t have a lot free time here to get ready...what with running the country and all...but he’s gonna have to man up, down a few five hour energy drinks, burn the midnight oil and miss a few family dinners. I’m sorry his anniversary fell on debate night, but this is just too important. 

We don't necessarily need this guy to show next time. Okay maybe we do.

*The supposition is that businesses need profits so they will hire people. But corporations currently have high profits and they're not hiring. The response is that  the times are uncertain, and businesses need certainty. But I this conflicts with the idea of the job creator who gets the reward for taking the risk - if there is certainty, why is the reward for risk justified?  And this flies in the face of basic economics which says markets dictate business creation, not profit.

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