What to expect in the next presidential debate
posted at 1:04 pm on October 13, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
Liberal pundits are rejoicing over Joe Biden’s … er—“interesting” performance during Thursday’s vice presidential debate. Many are claiming that Biden gave the Democratic base just the jolt it needed. This begs the question of how Biden’s antics will play among undecided voters or what impact it will have on the next presidential debate, which is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, Oct. 16th.
The chance to try to even the score probably can’t come soon enough for President Obama, who has been trailing in the polls since Oct. 9—the longest continuous such stretch during the current campaign season—and relishing a chance to go all Medieval on Mitt Romney’s sorry butt.
So what can he say that will turn the tide back in his direction? He could try doubling down on the Sesame Street strategy, which apparently is still on the table. As recently as Thursday, Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One that “there’s only one candidate in this race who is going to continue to fight for Big Bird and Elmo, and he is riding on this plane.”
But what else does the president have in his bag of tricks? Now that Mitt Romney’s “47%” remark is out there, Obama could try bringing that up, but then Romney will counter by reminding voters—while others will learn for the first time—about Obama’s put-down of “small town” voters who “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” The insult is sure to be a turn-off unless the listener is Jamelle Bouie, who admits that Obama’s comment was “inartful and condescending” but then attempts to explain it away by positing that it “came from a place of compassion—[that] Obama understands why white rural voters are arrayed against him.”
Obama could mention that Romney plans to do away with the two features of his health care reform law that don’t make voter wretch—the elimination of the waiting period for pre-existing conditions and the provision that children can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. But Romney already took the air out of that argument in the first debate. He noted that he intends not only to repeal Obamacare but to replace it with a sounder health care reform law that includes not only these popular provisions but portability of premiums across state lines (which will create cost-lowering competition) and (one hopes) tort reform.
Will Obama boast, as he has recently on the campaign trail, that thanks to him al Qaeda is “on its heels”? Or will today’s headline of an al Qaeda-backed jailbreak in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, resulting in the escape of more than 100 prisoners, cause him to rethink this position? Will he brag about bagging Osama bin Laden, and if he does will Romney remind him of the chant of the Egyptian mob that stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11: “Obama, Obama there are still a billion Osamas”? Naturally, a mention of foreign policy will prompt Romney to reprise the question has campaign has been asking with regard to the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi and the killing of an American ambassador for the first time in 33 years—namely, what did the president know, and when did he know it?
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