Morning Briefing: October 4th, 2012


5 Thoughts on the Debate

1. I’m not surprised Mitt Romney performed well (although he did better than I thought – more on that in a moment) with his proverbial back against the wall. This was a do-or-die moment for a guy that’s been running for the presidency for five years, and saw his bid for the White House slipping away. You’re not as successful in life as Romney has been by not seizing the moment. But what did surprise me is how bad President Obama was. His high point was wishing the First Lady a happy anniversary, and from that point on he looked as if he’d rather be having his toe-nails removed with a dull, rusty blade then on that stage. Obama came across like a police officer who pulls you over for doing 58 in a 55-mph zone. He walks up to your window, shrugs his shoulders, and in a bemused voice says “Yes, it’s lame I’m giving you this ticket right now, and my actions are indefensible, but I’ve got a quota to make so I have to be here.” The lack of tact, polish, and leadership projected by this president was breathtaking. I’m not sure how his disinterested, uncertain presentation doesn’t demoralize Democrats for at least a news cycle. Live by the stagecraft, die by the stagecraft.

2. How bad was it for Obama? He actually lost the question most in his wheelhouse: Romney’s hypocrisy on Romneycare vs. Obamacare. Romney’s position is indefensible, but he did give about the best answer he could. Still, this is a question Obama should own, and he couldn’t even project confident leadership on the most singular “achievement” of his administration (thanks again John Roberts). One moment was a microcosm of the night. During a prolonged discussion about the economy which laid bare the inconvenient truths of Obama’s failed record, Obama actually looked at the moderator and said, “You may want move on.” Translation: “throw me a fricking bone here – you’re with PBS for Pete’s sake!” On this night he wasn’t a president. Obama was every bit the amateur.

3. Romney’s opening answer laying out specifics of his economic plan and why it would work might have been the best answer in defense of traditional conservative ideological orthodoxy a Republican nominee for president has given in decades (1988?). For instance, Romney’s explanation of Spain’s financial meltdown was a very effective means of literally teaching free market economic principles to an American populace becoming increasingly ignorant of them, and a necessary tool to reach voters we can no longer take for granted share our assumptions. Yes, Romney spent too much time joining in the Left’s “soak the rich” meme in the beginning and his solutions to our problems still don’t go far enough. But even this Romney skeptic was appreciative of Romney’s willingness to do something John McCain and George W. Bush never did – defend and advance conservative principles against Democrat clichés and talking points on a national stage. Sure, his record in Massachusetts as governor is still heinous, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I had friends of mine telling me it sounded like some of Romney’s answers came right from my radio show. Where has this Romney been all these years, and why didn’t he govern like this in Massachusetts? And I especially loved the tactic Romney used in talking about Medicare privatization, saying “me personally if I had a choice” I’d rather make my own decisions. That is an effective, non-threatening method of introducing conservative concepts into the mainstream without making it easy for the Democrat demagogues.

4. Two exchanges Wednesday night were Romney’s strongest case yet for the presidency, and he would be wise to turn them into his campaign message from here on out. First, Romney told Obama “I’ve been in business for 25 years, and I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Translation: “You’re out of your league – you may be a nice guy, but you’re not fit to be president.” That was a devastating blow, as was this line: “You don’t just pick winners and losers, you pick losers.” If those were the “zingers” Romney was reportedly working on, they paid off. Later, Obama kept droning on and on about government, sounding every bit like a guy who has spent his entire life in the subsidized sector. Romney’s response to this resulted in his highest marks from CNN’s focus group of Colorado swing voters when he defended our founding documents and principles versus statism. That shouldn’t be a surprise, because the Tea Party showed in the 2010 midterms that is a winning message. Republicans win when the American people see stark worldview and policy differences between us and Democrats, and Democrats win when they don’t.

5. This was the biggest presidential debate rout since Reagan-Carter in 1980. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being stellar, Romney scored about a 15. There is no doubt Romney will get a boost, the only question is how much. It reminded me of the debate dominance Newt Gingrich had prior to the South Carolina primary, which elevated him to the victory there (see, conservative principles on a national stage works every time its tried). In the end, the target audience is the suburbs of Ohio, because that’s where this election will be won or lost. I also suspect the president will make a strong comeback in the next debate, and the expectations will be high for Romney to match this one. Also, keep in mind that in the first Mondale-Reagan debate Mondale clearly won, and Reagan looked old and tired. Then Reagan won the next debate and won the biggest landslide in history. Still, Romney needed something to stop the president’s momentum and this debate did it. He bought himself more time to make his case, after wasting too much time for months now. However, the biggest winners tonight may be down ballot Republicans, who were close to getting caught up in Romney’s reverse coat-tails. If this debate tightens up the race like I expect it will, and Romney doesn’t walk back anything he said in this debate and stays on message, that can only help the overall cause.

You can friend “Steve Deace” on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow. 


  • Craig Bergman

    Without any doubt. Spot on.

  • TruthinessTeller

    Really Steve?

    Romney won the debate because he abandoned the conservative Romney he’s been campaigning as for the past year (and lied about practically everything he’s promised to do up to this point). And in doing so abandoned your base and the principles you espouse everyday (but apparently won you back with his throwaway lines about the constitution and Spain?).

    In essence, he lied through his teeth and became a different candidate, which is about the most Romney thing he could have done.

    Obama certainly lost a chance to call him out on most of those declarations (except early in the debate when he said that Romney basically said “never mind about anything I’ve said up to this point”).

  • Mike McNary

    Steve are you kidding us or have you turned into a shill for the GOP? Romney flip flopped all over the place away running away from Conservative positions.

  • rbharvey

    I am not a Romney fan but it was refreshing to see him stand tall and confident. I think if Romney would remind the President in the next debate that it is not Governments money but the American peoples money that would be a point scored. Romney understood in business that the money he was managing was investors money not his. The respect he had for the investors money was valuable. So valuable in fact, that he made sure the investors would see him as a leader and a winner. If he could articulate that message he would gain respect and trust of the American people.

  • Jeff Suter

    Romney won on style and delivery but both fail on substance. Both of their economic plans only addressed the deficit and not the debt. Their plans only reduce the deficit by a few hundred billion dollars per year while the debt continues to grow to over 20 trillion dollars over the next 4 years. This will not work. The american people lose.

  • Jeff

    In no time at all the Mainstream media will have gotten over their shock
    over Obama’s poor showing and will start to pump out some kind of false
    narrative out there about why Obama really won the debate.

    Which Romney will take to heart and the next debate he will do things
    the exact opposite from the way it worked so well for him to do in this

    And naturally by doing so he will lose that debate and from there on it will be a rush to the bottom for him.

  • surfcitysocal

    Thank you, Steve, for injecting some sanity into the Romney bachelor party last night. “Romney’s hypocrisy on Romneycare vs. Obamacare…Romney’s position is indefensible…Still, this is a question Obama should own, and he couldn’t even project confident leadership on the most singular ‘achievement’ of his administration.” I will say that Romney projected confident, dignified leadership and Obama looked woefully unprepared, like a floundering incompetent amateur, a deer in the headlights–certainly not the leader of the free world. My conundrum is that I’ve vowed to not vote for Romney, who I don’t believe for a second is even remotely conservative and who I believe will betray conservatives the first chance he gets. (“My ideas are Progressive; the only connection I have with the Republican party is the R after my name.”) And I haven’t forgotten that Romney personally championed same-sex marriage and the individual mandate.

    Obama will take my home state California easily and its 55 electoral college votes. My conservative vote is virtually meaningless and so I’ve said all along that I’m writing in who “should win”, not who “could win” as you noted in an article last year endorsing Michele Bachmann. The thing that Romney has going for him is that I do think he will stand by Israel and not bow to foreign leaders. I also believe that Romney won’t sit on his hands in a crisis as Obama has done repeatedly in numerous cases from the Gulf spill to Benghazi. Thomas Sowell wrote recently, “In Barack Obama’s case, the potential for catastrophe is international in scope.” We are in dangerous times and the next four years will be explosive. Perhaps, literally. But I keep going back to the fact that here in California, I’m a conservative rowboat bobbing in a sea of liberals.

  • Chris Downey

    I confess to almost softening toward Romney because of this debate. Not because he said anything conservative, as Steve alleges (where does he get that?)–but because Romney was transparent about his 98.6 percent me-too liberalism, with a little fiscal conservative icing on top. Such honesty was almost refreshing; for once he wasn’t pandering. Contrary to BHO’s subsequent panic attack, that was the real Romney we saw Wednesday night.

    Then the Iowa GOP sent out a flyer touting Romney’s record as a champion of “marriage, freedom, and life,” with a picture of his perfect family on the cover. What gross mendacity and sycophancy. It just proves that we are being “fooled again,” and the GOP is the enabler. The GOP has to be dismantled.