Quotes of the day

One senior Democratic official expressed real concern tonight unlike I have heard before about Ohio potentially slipping away from Obama (the state has been trending Republican in statewide races, Rob Portman has become a force, religious and gun groups are flooding the state with voter contacts, two of Romney’s top strategists have recently won a statewide race there, etc).

This doesn’t mean Romney has the upper hand right now. But it is no longer at all implausible that he could take the three Southern battlegrounds and Ohio. If he does that, he sure as heck would have the upper hand. And that leaves at least some Democrats with the shakes.


In a stark warning on the eve of the second presidential debate, veteran Democratic strategists Stanley B. Greenberg and James Carville write in a newly released memo that the campaign “has reached a tipping point” that could cost President Obama reelection if he does not present a more compelling vision for the next four years…

In an interview, Greenberg said that at the first debate, Mitt Romney caused many voters who are worried about the nation’s direction to view him in a new light, mostly by convincing them he had aggressive plans to improve the economy — even as Obama conveyed little about goals of his own. After the debate, Greenberg said, undecided and loosely committed voters “are looking at Romney. Before [the debate] I thought they were trying to get to Obama. But I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think now they are considering Romney, which is why the next debate is pretty critical.”


Obama has two big problems going into the second showdown with Romney. One, he needs to win just to level the score. And two, even if he wins at Hofstra, it’s likely the second debate will have fewer viewers and receive less attention than the first. So the president actually needs not only to win, but to win big to return to an equal debate footing with Romney after the disaster in Denver…

The strategist wants to see a forceful Obama — a really forceful Obama — take on Romney. “The ’47 percent,’ he ought to be shoving up Romney’s a–,” the Democrat says. “Romney can say he apologized. But Obama can say an apology doesn’t change things. Romney didn’t misspeak. That was a two-minute oration that basically gave Romney’s view of America.”…

“You can overcompensate, and he has to be careful not to,” the Democratic strategist says. “You can’t go from being a pussycat to a pit bull.”


Obama’s biggest problem, however, may not be Romney but the debate’s format, which couldn’t be more difficult for an incumbent mounting a comeback. The second debate will be town-hall-style, where a selected audience of undecided voters asks the questions, many of which will likely focus on the president’s tenure.

Hence, Obama must figure out how to defend his record before the crowd, focusing most of his attention on his individual questioners, while at the same time attacking Romney—and all without overdoing the negativism that typically doesn’t play well in such formats. Pulling that off may be the only way the president can prove to the millions of Americans watching on TV that he can do what he failed to accomplish last week in Denver: effectively counter the insurgent across from him on the stage…

In a town-hall format, an attack strategy risks annoying the audience, Sabato says. In Richmond, he adds, “members of the audience could be seen openly rebelling when the candidates got too negative.”


[A]lmost all the damage in town hall-style presidential debates is self-inflicted. The only way to win is to allow your opponent to make mistakes

If Obama is listening to the advice of countless media pundits that suggest he ought to come out more aggressively–and all signs are that he will try to do just that–then he is heading for trouble. Not only is Romney at his best when being attacked, but attacking Romney in front of a group of real-life voters will seem petty and will likely reinforce perceptions of Obama as running a negative campaign without new ideas or proposals.

Similarly, if Romney listens to his innumerable critics who describe him as out of touch with ordinary people (based on very little evidence), and tries too hard to “empathize” with the people in the room, he may end up looking foolish. Yet he cannot be passive, either, and rest on his laurels, because that will lend credence to the media’s narrative.


Until just over a week ago, President Obama’s campaign was on the cusp of doing something unprecedented in modern presidential politics: turning the election into a referendum on the challenger, Mitt Romney. Why is that so special? Because every prior example of an incumbent running for reelection in recent times has wound up being a referendum on the guy in the White House…

His advisers have long believed that a weary public has no patience for grand ideas or presidential self-applause. So Obama’s strategy has focused primarily on going after Romney—until last week, with remarkable success.

But Romney’s debate performance and his subsequent revival suggest that voters do have an appetite for big ideas and promises, no matter how vaguely defined. Unless Obama begins to offer a few of his own, there’s little reason to assume that a referendum on his presidency will turn out the way he hopes.


[H]is problem is this: In Denver he didn’t just lose a debate—he lost the carefully cultivated illusion of a larger-than-life figure who was Lincoln and FDR and Moses all wrapped in one.

Some 67 million Americans were watching on TV. What they saw was the scene from the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy’s dog pulls back the curtain to reveal there is no wizard at all, just a man from the Midwest who pumped himself up into something far beyond his mortal self—and got the whole of Oz to believe it…

In the two remaining debates, Mr. Obama will surely be more assertive, more competitive, and more engaged than he was in round one. But this time the curtain has been pulled back and the aura is gone. That means Mr. Obama’s Republican opponent—for the first time in two presidential contests—will finally be contesting a mere mortal, not a wizard of his own Oz.


Everyone loves a comeback, and just as pundits and reporters found one after the first debate in Denver in the GOP nominee’s strong performance, Romney and GOP operatives argue that the same will hold true of the president following Tuesday’s second round on Long Island.

A senior Romney adviser predicted that “It’s going to be very hard to find observers to say [Obama] was just as bad as he was in the first debate…. the last debate sort of lowered a lot of expectations in the minds of many observers.”

“Perhaps Romney’s biggest challenge will be overcoming a Gang of 500 who would love nothing more than reporting ‘Obama wins round by KO’ lede,’” concurred Brad Dayspring, a GOP strategist and adviser to the YG Action Fund. “Obama the comeback kid is a very appealing story line.”


Via Pew.


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