A lot of very intelligent progressives are unhappy that Obama pulled some punches last night. He didn’t throw Romney’s 47% comments back at him. He didn’t force Romney to nail down some of the specifics of his plan. He just laid out a foundation for what he believed and where he differed from Romney. It’s almost as if he thinks there will be a chance to build and elaborate on these themes in some later debate.
As it turns out, this was an awfully reasonable thing to do. If your football team is up by ten in the final quarter, you don’t do a lot of long passes. The risk of interception is too high. In baseball, if you have no strikes and three balls, you can afford to watch a pitch sail over the plate—particularly if the alternative is a pop-fly somebody will catch. In volleyball, the bump, set, spike thing needs to happen in that order.
It’s a bit premature to write obituaries for Obama’s career as an orator. I’d like to see Obama run Romney through the rhetorical sausage grinder as much as the next guy—but I think attempting that during the first debate would have been a serious lapse of judgement.
As I’ve been discussing with a friend and my sister, I’m convinced the Obama campaign made a strategic decision to go low key in last night’s debate. The Obama campaign is too well run by many people much smarter about politics than I am to put the President out there like that unless there was a reason to do so.
When I think of last night, I keep seeing the image of a small, high-strung dog running and running around his target all the while yapping and yapping as loud and as much as he can (you can substitute dog with toddler if you like). Obama, is the owner/parent who has seen this act many times before and therefore chooses to let the dog/child wear himself out before taking action.
The Obama campaign knew Romney was going to come out aggressive, he’s been telegraphing it for weeks. So the Obama camp made the decision to let him do exactly that. Romney came out on fire like he’d been endlessly drinking coffee and Red Bull for days. You could tell Romney had been itching to directly address the steady stream of perceived lies and falsehoods that had been building up against him and it all came out last night during the debate. Romney was aggressive, smug, going after every little perceived slight, personal and otherwise, stepping over and on previous statement and positions regardless whether they contradicted previous statements all in order to make his point on stage, damn the consequences the morning after.
In fact, there’s some emerging evidence that Romney may have cut off his nose to spite his face.
Noah Millman: “Romney’s palpable zest for the debate made him look like a guy ready to take charge, and the President’s demeanor suggested some willingness to let him do so. But his refusal to stand his ground on anything – and the marked contrast with the President in that regard – made him sound like a snake-oil salesman.”