Team Obama goes into emergency-restrategizing mode

After that rather embarrassing performance last night, Team Obama is changing tack at warp speed. They’ve certainly got their work cut out for them, considering what will be the most effective ways to tear down Mitt Romney and put President Obama back on top. They’re still using the recent “either Romney must raise taxes on the middle class, or he must increase the deficit, those are the only two possible outcomes”-line, but adding some fun new framing. As BuzzFeed summarizes,

President Barack Obama and his aides rapidly reversed their strategic course Thursday morning, shifting the center of their attacks on Mitt Romney back toward the oldest criticisms of the Republican: That he’s a flip-flopper.

Democrats had long been torn over whether to portray Romney as too conservative, or too inconsistent, for the electorate — realizing that the attacks are inconsistent with one another. And since this spring, they seemed to have settled on the former, casting Romney as a conservative whose policies of cutting taxes and spending, and on abortion and other social issues, are too far right for most voters.

Thursday they returned abruptly to the earlier line. …

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign’s task over the next several days is to “Make sure every voter understands the positions Mitt Romney danced around last night.”

President Obama was already out on the attack at a campaign rally in Denver earlier this morning, arguing that “the very spirited fellow” onstage last night just “couldn’t have been the real Mitt Romney”:

While the real Mitt Romney has been promising $5 trillion in tax cuts and saying the country doesn’t need more teachers, Obama said, “the fellow onstage last night” said the opposite.

“The man onstage last night, he does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he’s been saying for the last year. And that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling for the last year,” Obama said.

In much the same vein, Obama for America has released their latest ad, wondering, “Why won’t Mitt Romney level with us?”

David Axelrod lamented about that foxy Mitt Romney during a conference call this morning, via Politico:

“What the president hoped to avoid was a situation where you had two politicians standing there insulting each other instead of offering ideas for the future of the country, but you know, you have to strike a balance,” Axelrod said in a conference call with reporters. “You can’t allow someone to stand there and basically manhandle the truth about their own record and ideas and about yours and not deal with that. I’m sure that is a takeaway from this debate.” …

“This was the first chance for the president to see how Gov. Romney operates in these debates first hand,” he said. “You have to make some adjustments to the fact that, you know, he is kind of a serial, …artful dodger. That makes it a more challenging kind of event.”

So, sounds like Team Obama has decided on their post-first debate “adjustments” and that that’s the type of thing we’re going to be hearing a lot over at least the next few days — Mitt Romney is dishonest, we can’t keep up with his changing storylines, he’s a rhetorical trickster, rabble rabble rabble. Following Team Obama’s lead, the liberal blogs are all buzzing about the $5 trillion tax cut moment as one of Romney’s biggest weaknesses from the night, but here’s a simple explanation from the CSMonitor:

It is true that a central facet of Mitt Romney’s economic plan is a 20 percent across-the-board reduction in marginal tax rates, plus elimination of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Do the math on how much money the federal government would forgo as a result of this, and it’s about $456 billion a year. Over 10 years, that rounds up to $5 trillion. That’s the calculus behind the “$5 trillion tax cut” figure that Obama cites.

However, that’s only part of the tax plan. Romney has said he would make his overall tax changes revenue-neutral. He’d hack out deductions, exemptions, and other exclusions to broaden the tax base, for one thing. For another, he says that lowering marginal rates would increase economic activity, and hence tax revenue. These changes would counterbalance any revenue lost from rate reductions, according to Romney.