Michael Tomasky on what the President needs to bear in mind when he goes into the debate with Romney tonight:
I hope that someone can say to him, “Mr. President, 70 million or more Americans are counting on you. They voted for you, they’re planning on voting for you again, and they want you to fight for them. If you lose, you let them down horribly—and you damage their lives. They’re 47 percenters, a lot of these folks. They need you. If the other side gets in, you’ll be fine, but they’re screwed.”
I think it’s clear that Obama took Romney far too lightly last time around and believed he had the race sewn up. That would at least partially explain his zombie like performance and give reason to believe he’ll come out paying attention this time around. When faced with a candidate like Mitt Romney who is determined to push through a radical plan to further distribute wealth upwards and gut what is left of the social welfare net, it would be good for the President to remember his own roots as a community organizer. Obama spent years on the ground trying to counter the effects of Republican welfare policies, and it is that mentality he needs to bring in for the debate. It’s the people vs the millionaires and Obama needs to remember which side he’s on.
With the polls indicating that the election is becoming increasingly close, it’s probably time that everyone re-assesses just how important televised Presidential debates are – at least in this election. Proof? Just look at what happened to Obama’s numbers after the first debate two weeks ago – his numbers literally fell off a cliff:
The numbers really are stunning. For Obama to lose such a sizable advantage literally over night means there is a very, very serious problem and he will have to put on the performance of a lifetime to ensure a meaningful reversal. Joe Biden’s performance last week was excellent, but Vice Presidential debates don’t generally make a huge impact on the outcome of elections. Biden gave Obama a bump back in the right direction, but the real decider will come down to the debates between Obama and Romney.
The panic felt after the first debate has subsided a little, but there are creeping doubts that Obama can raise his game enough to thwart Romney’s resurgence. It is widely known that the President is not a fan of the debate format and there is a danger that he will revert to type (professorial, long winded and too polite). This isn’t to say it’s all over for Obama should he not completely dominate Romney tomorrow as some corners of the blogosphere seem to think (Andrew Sullivan is busy preparing himself for the apocalypse). Elections are fought on the ground as well as the airwaves, and Obama has a formidable army of volunteers that will be deployed to drive the vote out. Nevertheless, Obama’s crashing numbers were a sign of just how vital the largely superficial spectacle can be, so understanding its importance should certainly not be underestimated.
The pressure is on, and Obama is surely aware of his need to perform. Historically, he rises to the occasion and finds a way to win. Let’s see if he can revert to type, because his Presidency depends on it.
By Ben Cohen: Tuesday night’s second Presidential debate in New York between President Obama and Mitt Romney should determine the direction of the race going forward. There are just over two weeks left till voters go to the polls and contrary to early predictions, the race is pretty tight. It was a one horse race that saw Obama beating Romney across the board until the first debate two weeks ago where the President inexplicably showed up half asleep and allowed Romney to catapult himself back into contention.
From a factual point of view, the debate was also very one sided – Mitt Romney lied his way through the evening making numbers up and distorting the President’s record at every given opportunity. While not perfect, Obama generally speaking told the truth. But Americans don’t care too much about facts and figures – they want rousing speeches and polished ‘Presidential’ performances from their candidates, and if Obama is to reverse the enormous damage his showing did last time around, he’s going to have to buck up big time.
It appears that Obama has been taking preparations seriously – he has bunkered down in Virginia to go through intensive training for tomorrow night, and he will no doubt be looking to erase his atrocious performance from two weeks ago from voters minds. High off of his last performance, Romney will come in cool and confident so Obama needs to be on his ‘A’ game in order to pull the race back in his direction.
Here’s our 10 point guide addressed to the President himself (yes, we have those type of connections here at The Daily Banter….) on how not to screw up the debate tomorrow night:
1. Don’t look down at your notes. It looks like you don’t know what you are talking about. The facts should be memorized.
2. Do not laugh at what Romney is saying. Yes, it will mostly be completely laughable, but it doesn’t look Presidential (whatever that means). Joe Biden could get away with it, but he’s not the President. You are, so act like it.
3. Counter Romney on EVERY SINGLE POINT. You have to be seen to be not taking any nonsense. Romney is going to lie like he has all the way through the campaign, so there will be many, many opportunities to butt in and tell the audience he is not being honest with them.
4. Use zingers. This could be a controversial tactic, but it’s an important one. Prepared retorts can be very effective when delivered at the right time. When you were engaged in a highly exciting back and forth with Hillary Clinton back in 2008, you brought up a comment Bill Clinton had made. Hillary replied: “Well I’m here, and he’s not,” to which you responded, “Well I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes”. We need more of this please.
5. Take charge of the debate and determine where the fight takes place. Last time you allowed Romney to dictate the topic while you reacted. This means countering his point then directing the debate where you want it to go. For example, do not allow him to talk about the debt on his terms – frame it in your own. When he says “Obama drove up the national debt”, you counter with “Republicans drove up the debt in the first place and we had to clean up the gigantic mess. Exactly where were you when Bush kept authorizing more spending on two wars while passing tax cuts?”
8. Attack Romney on the ’47%’ remarks. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOPIC FOR THE DEBATE. This must be done relentlessly.
9. Highlight the fact that Romney’s math do not add up. This is a battle for the center, and they are looking for competency above all. No matter how polished Romney comes across when discussing numbers, report after report shows that his tax policies are complete nonsense and could never work.
10. Remind everyone that there is more work to do and present a positive vision for the future. Portray the Republicans as having a plan for millionaires but nothing for everyone else. Remind Americans what Bush did from 2000 to 2008 and remind them that under no circumstances should they be allowed anywhere near the White House for a very long time to come.
Remember to tune in to The Daily Banter at 9pm ET/6pm PT on Tuesday for our live blog of the Presidential debate where we will be giving up to the minute opinion and analysis!!
There’s a serious battle going on in Las Vegas that encapsulates the ongoing conflict between capital and labor in the US, the consequences of which could even determine the Presidential election. Reports the Guardian:
On one side the Culinary Union, representing Lawrence and 55,000 other casino cooks, bell hops and chambermaids, is investing its formidable organisational power in a get-out-the-vote drive for President Barack Obama.
At stake are the state’s six electoral college votes, a small but potentially decisive prize in a tight presidential race. Opinion polls suggest a virtual tie in Nevada, Obama with 47%, Romney with 46%, meaning just a few votes could determine the result.
Unions have long known how to fight the mega rich – they use on the ground campaigns based around community that can be incredibly effective given the disparity in funding. But with the emergence of Super Pacs, the rich are finding new and creative ways to destroy unions and beat them at their own game:
Newly formed conservative groups such as Nevada Hispanics canvass voters at home, at supermarkets and at community events – mimicking a venerable Democratic and union strategy.
“We have very different ideologies but our campaigns have become more similar,” said Yvanna Cancela, political director of the Culinary Union. “Republicans used to stick to television and mail drops but they’ve learned being out in the field works. This means we need to be even more organised and to knock on every door.”
Which is why dozens of shop stewards and activists like Lawrence have taken unpaid leave – with employers’ permission – to campaign full time until election day even though their union pay tends to be less than regular salaries and overtime.
The vitriol with which billionaires like Wynn, Trump and Adelson have attacked President Obama with in regards to his economic policies is truly scary. The myth that Obama is a far left ‘wealth re-distributor’ is simply not borne out by the facts – his tax policies are more conservative than Ronald Reagan’s, and his proposals for his second term are to raise taxes to rates slightly lower than those of Bill Clinton’s. Wynn, Trump and Adelson all made their billions during the 80′s and 90′s, so why they believe Obama’s kinder tax scheme will destroy their ability to make money is anyone’s guess.
Using grassroots campaigns to convince working Americans that they should vote for less rights and more tax cuts for the rich is an amazing feat if you think about it given how effective they are – and if it wasn’t so disgusting you could even give them credit for creativity.
The battle for Las Vegas is an important one as President Obama represents the last hope for unions and the labor movement at the Presidential level. Obama isn’t exactly going out to bat for unions on a daily basis, but he does support them and is no doubt a better friend to labor than a Romney Presidency would be. If the Culinary union manages to beat back Wynn, Trump and Adelson in Vegas it will prove that all is not lost in America’s beleaguered labor movement, and that people can still win against money no matter the odds.
Hands down the best moment in the vice Presidential debate last night was Joe Biden’s evisceration of Mitt Romney for the 47% comments:
The entire country was waiting for the topic to be brought up given President Obama’s inexplicable decision to avoid it in his debate with Romney last week – and boy did Biden drive the point home. “These people are my mom and dad – the people I grew up with, my neighbors” said Biden. “They pay more effective tax than governor Romney does in federal income tax”.
I have to say that Biden did to Ryan what Cheney did to Edwards in style and demeanor and authoritah. Ryan was hampered by an insurmountable problem on the impossible mathematics of the Romney budget. I think his inability to answer that question – how do you pay for it? – has to be the driving question now. The only way to afford it is to cut middle class deductions and middle class entitlements much more than Obama-Biden would. I’d love radical tax reform – but I’m not crazy enough to believe you can actually tackle the debt by cutting taxes and increasing defense spending and leaving Medicare basically alone (no ACA-style cost-controls) and only removing deductions for the very rich. It doesn’t add up. They know it. And when challenged – even by Fox News – he cannot provide the details.
From both a substantive and stylistic perspective, Biden completely dominated the debate. He was far more passionate, authoritative, and aggressive than Ryan. It is a pure reversal of the first presidential debate but on steroids: Biden was actually more assertive and even more lively than Romney was, while Ryan was at times as listless and passive as Obama was.
Biden made the whole Democratic argument — on policy and values and he hit Romney really everywhere Democrats wanted him to. He left nothing unsaid. You can agree with those points or not. But this was exceedingly important for recovering the damage from last week’s debate when many Obama supporters simply felt that Obama wasn’t willing or able or something to make the case Democrats around the country are hyped up to make. Why didn’t you say this? Why’d you let him get away with that? Biden said it all. And for Democrats around the country that was extremely important.
Joe Biden won–certainly on the substance, although he lost a bit on the body language. His frustrated smiles, head shakes etc. etc. will become a Republican talking point and influence the post-game evaluations, even if they were sort of justified. Biden was in command throughout, a more forceful and passionate presence than Ryan. But Ryan did well, too–unflappable even when Biden nailed him on his requests for stimulus funding. And Ryan had some nice moments, arguing uphill against Biden’s onslaught.
That was no mean feat. Biden was so combative that at times he appeared thuggish. He badgered, bulldozered, hectored and harassed. At some moments, the debate appeared to owe more to WWE than CNN. This was probably Biden overcompensating for his boss’s lacklustre performance last week.
Occasionally he overdid it. Where some had questioned whether Obama had taken a sleeping pill, Biden looked like he was on steroids. For much of the evening, this worked. But his digs could be gratuitous, and his exasperation overly theatrical. “You’re Jack Kennedy now?” he said after Ryan once mentioned the former president. At times the age difference, along with the smirking, eye rolling and forceful interventions, made him look like an angry father taking his impudent son to the woodshed.
Biden did a lot of things Obama should have done last week, including using Romney’s 47% comments to give a clear illustration of just what the GOP ticket stood for. Even better, Biden cornered Ryan into making an argument for sending more troops into Afghanistan. It exposed the GOP’s foreign policy as essentially unchanged from the failure of the Bush years.
And my conclusion on the debate:
At the end of it, it was a very, very resounding victory for the Democrats tonight. Biden used effective aggression all night long forcing Ryan to defend the indefensible. Over and over again Biden refused to accept Ryan’s math or absurd policy proposals, and pummeled him on issues that matter to regular Americans. It was a direct appeal to the middle classes who will decide this election, and he gave them a clear choice – a government that works in their interest or a government that works in the interests of millionaires. It looked like a man vs a boy in many spots with Ryan unsure of how to hit back effectively. Biden did not let Ryan get away with anything, countering the incessant stream of nonsense with facts and logic. Ryan, to his credit, did not fold and did his best to hold ground against the clearly angered Biden, but he simply could not argue his way out of the ridiculous claims and faulty policies he and Romney have been campaigning on for the past year.
We’ll see how this plays out in the polls and whether the performance has helped regain lost ground after the President’s performance last week, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the Obama campaign team is breathing a lot easier.
Presidential debates: An exercise in vanity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Ben Cohen: The general consensus within media and political circles as that Joe Biden must relentlessly attack Paul Ryan in tonight’s Vice Presidential debate if he is to make up for President Obama’s desultory performance last week. There is no doubt Biden needs to take it to Ryan tonight, but there’s a lot more that the Vice President needs to do to put right what Obama put wrong.
Presidential debates are basically an exercise in branding and marketing – and thus far, the Obama/Biden brand has been damaged pretty badly.
Part of me feels pretty ridiculous for commenting on the whole process given how completely insane it is – the mere fact that they have a ‘spin’ room where media strategists try to re-frame the debate after the event to the salivating press should be enough to make the entire debacle irrelevant – but that is the reality of modern elections. It is a gigantic image contest that requires insane attention to details that don’t have anything to do with actual policy, and whoever masters the detail usually wins.
This election, and this debate is an important one, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The Romney/Ryan ticket is about as lethal a duo as you could possibly imagine given the fragile state of the economy and volatility in the Middle East, and the only thing left preventing both blowing up are President Obama and Vice President Biden. Another Republican victory tonight could be disastrous for the Democrats and it rests on Biden’s shoulders to save the proverbial day.
So what does Joe need to do tonight? Here’s our somewhat superficial guide to the Vice Presidential debate:
1. Look sharp. Biden must reassure voters that he knows how to dress like a Vice President. This means shirt tucked in, tie folded in perfect symmetry and hair coiffed perfectly. Biden should use Robert Redford as a model.
2. Speak in soundbytes. The more zingers from Biden the better, regardless of what pundits say. Zingers get turned into youtube clips that can often go viral. Given America’s attention span is close to zero, the shorter the better.
3. Point out how young Paul Ryan is and insinuate he’s nowhere near mature enough to be Vice President. Biden must come across as a slightly elderly statesman and put Ryan in his place.
4. Encapsulate in as few words as possible the main reason why Ryan and Romney should not be trusted by the American public. A suggestion: “You have both lied and changed your positions so many times it is impossible to know where you stand on anything”. Nothing fancier.
5. Attack Ryan on his extremely dubious math. Again, this needs to be done pithily – Americans don’t want to hear long winded calculations and intricate policy details. “Your sums don’t add up and you have failed to present details on your tax plan for America.” This must be repeated often.
6. Highlight the differences between Obama and Romney. Biden needs to get the base excited again so mentioning gay marriage, women’s rights, and healthcare is an absolute necessity. Biden must go out of his way to portray Romney and Ryan as extremists and not allow his opponent to claim the center as Romney successfully did against Obama last week.
7. No long winded speeches. Biden is like the uncle you wish would shut up at Christmas – he loves the sound of his own voice, and he must be extremely self conscious about this for tonight.
8. No gaffes. Biden is about the most gaffe prone politician around – thankfully they are largely harmless (unlike Romney’s, which have been life threatening), but the stakes are high and a polished performance is an absolute necessity.
We’ll be doing a live blog of the debate tonight, so please join us at 9pm ET, 6pm PT for what could be another defining moment in this Presidential election.
Politicians today could learn a thing or two from JFK. In this excellent speech, the 35th President of the United States lays out a forceful defense of government and its positive role in society:
This is what we need to hear from Obama in the next debate. The poll numbers are really not looking good for the President and he needs to come out swinging big time. How does he do that? By appealing to his base and reminding everyone he’s a Democrat, not a centrist like the (again) re-tooled Romney. Instead of having Obama practice zingers, maybe his team should have him sit in front of JFK speeches for a couple of days in preparation for the debate. It may reignite some sorely missing passion.
It really is astonishing that just by looking the part, Romney has propelled himself back into the Presidential election despite lying for the better part of 90 minutes. As Matt Taibbi writes:
Romney’s performance was better than Obama’s, but only if you throw out criteria like “wasn’t 100% full of shit from the opening bell” and “made an actual attempt to explain who he is and what his plans are.” Unfortunately, that is good enough for our news media, which drools over the gamesmanship aspects of these debates, because it loves candidates who sink their teeth into the horse-race nonsense that they think validates their professional lives.
Romney’s bounce is more an indicator of just how ridiculous the political process in America has become rather than Romney’s abilities as a candidate. Consistent lying should disqualify him from being taken seriously, but it has the opposite effect these days. It’s actually encouraged if done well.
We’re going to be following up on a piece we broke last week on Romney’s seriously shady behavior regarding his personal finances, proving again that Romney is a serial liar who cannot be trusted in the slightest to be forthcoming about literally anything. Stay tuned.
Now I’ve slept on it, that seems to me what happened last night. It was such a mesmerizing sales job and so relentless, checked at no point by Lehrer, and at no point checked by past reality or facts, Obama was left with two options: say this pleasant-seeming guy next to him is a shameless weather-vane and liar (wouldn’t work in a debate, is just against Obama’s character) or to try and remind the country of Romney’s actual policies as he has laid them out, and rebut the facts relentlessly. Obama tried the latter really, really badly, but the obvious retort to Romney’s smiling total pivot was: what on earth are you talking about? Who are you? Who will you be tomorrow?
I’m with Sullivan on this – perhaps part of Obama’s poor performance really was the completely different character he came up against face to face. Maybe he was as shocked as the nation and the pundit classes were. I mean, Romney has run on an extreme Right wing platform so far, then showed up to the debate as a mild centrist who cares more about medicare and poor people than the millionaires he’s actually running for.
Anyway, Obama really needs to find a way of using this against Romney and paint him as a sociopathic liar (which he clearly is), or he risks allowing Romney back into the race. Romney won’t stop lying, but Obama can start pointing it out.