By Bob Cesca: We've obviously entered the Emotional Roller-Coaster portion of the presidential campaign in which events and fortunes appear to be turning faster than many of us can tolerate, at least without several large high-balls filled with brown liquor.
Following a defeat in the first debate, Obama supporters careened through an array of emotions -- dismay, anger, denial, fear -- only to settle on panic-induced reloadings of Nate Silver's blog to monitor the polling damage.
Meanwhile, the solid jobs report on Friday offered an opportunity to, you know, breathe, and to bask in some good news while returning to more enjoyable endeavors like hectoring conservative Truthers and Unskewers who ridiculously thought the 7.8 percent unemployment number was a vast Chicago conspiracy. Nevertheless, maybe the unemployment rate will stop the bleeding and nullify Romney's bounce. But Monday brought with it mixed polling news. Gallup, Ipsos and, believe it or not, Rasmussen indicated that Romney's bounce was leveling off. But Pew released a poll showing Romney with a four-point lead, with PPP to follow with similar numbers today. And TPM's Poll Tracker shows and overall +2.7 percent lead for Romney.
I think I'll have a refill, please. Make it a double.
Actually, there's no way of knowing at this point whether Romney's bounce will continue or if it's only a blip. The jobs numbers are still too new to have an impact, plus there's the vice presidential debate followed by next week's second debate between Romney and the president. Kevin Drum, by the way, had a pretty even-keeled outlook on the debate yesterday. Specifically, he thinks the group-think in the wake of the president's performance is way, way out of hand, and I tend to agree.
Even after rewatching parts of the debate and listening to several days of apocalyptic doomsaying from liberals and conservatives alike, my take remains about the same as it did on Wednesday: Romney chalked up a modest victory. That’s about it. [...]
People who were polled during the debate thought it was about even. People polled after the debate thought Romney won. People polled a little later, after the media feeding frenzy, thought Romney crushed Obama in an epic rout.
That said, I've been thinking about the second debate and what specifically the president can do to recharge his campaign and to erase the acidic taste of the first outing.
The main thing the president lacked in the first debate was one big salient line about Mitt Romney that would've effectively disqualified the Romney in the eyes of voters.
To that end, this is what I've come up with for the second debate. The president ought to look directly into the camera and say the following.
"I don't know which Mitt Romney I'm debating tonight. Who is this man? What are his core values? We don't know where he stands on the issues and we don't know what he believes because these things appear to change by the hour. But after four years, whether you agree or disagree, you know where I stand."
The most important contrast in a time of uncertainty is that of an unknown quantity versus familiar leadership. In the past it's been called not changing horses in mid-stream, but with Romney the distinction couldn't be more appropriate given his well-documented flip-floppery, his pathological lying and his perpetual shape-shifting.
The president could add: "Are we seeing Massachusetts Romney tonight? Or is it 'Severely Conservative' Romney? What about Empathic Moderate Romney? Is it First Debate Mitt Romney? Which Mitt Romney is on this stage with me tonight? Let's face it. None of us really know. He might try to tell us tonight, but will that change tomorrow?"
From here, the president could segue into a strongly worded pitch for his leadership in difficult times, the tough decisions he's made and, chiefly, the successes that have grown out of his steady convictions.
The big wins:
We know that he's cut the deficit by $312 billion with the lowest rate of spending growth of any president since Truman. No recent Republican president has ever cut the deficit -- least of all George W. Bush who, in his first term, grew the deficit by $400 billion after squandering a $200 billion surplus, nailing the budget for a total of $600 billion between 2001 and 2005. How did Obama achieve this? Among other things, he signed pay-as-you-go legislation which makes it illegal to pass new spending without paying for it with spending cuts or new revenue. How many Republicans voted for this law? Zero. Romney's running-mate Paul Ryan voted against paying for new spending.
We know that Obama has presided over a doubling of the Dow, which is nearing its all-time high. You'll notice the impact of a robust bull market in your mutual funds, retirement accounts and 401(k) plans.
We know that he rescued the economy from another Great Depression, in spite of a record number of Republican filibusters against every proposal.
We know that he saved the American auto industry, hunted down Bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, expanded affordable healthcare for 30 million Americans, repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, and presided over the creation of 5 million new jobs.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is nothing more than a Question Mark with Hair who can't speak two sentences without one of those sentences contradicting the other. Romney had a solid debate performance. So what. Who is he? Admit it: you still have no idea where he stands.
If I was advising the president on the second debate, this is what I would advise him to say:
"Unlike my opponent tonight, you know what I stand for."
That's the politically preferred "10 word" version, by the way.