Romney was tutored in Florida by Brett O’Donnell, a new debate coach. Too bad he can’t find a conviction coach.
O’Donnell manned up Mittens and taught him how to pummel Newt in “moments of strength,” as the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos calls them. The funny thing is that the reason Gingrich soared in South Carolina, before faltering here, was that Republicans are so afraid of debates with the president that they are obsessed with sending forth their toughest adversary for him.
They seem to have forgotten that, while Obama has had dazzling moments of strength in executing Osama and in swashbuckling derring-do against Somali pirates — if not in dealing with Congress — he was no Abe Lincoln in debates. He did not like debating, and Michelle urged him to be more visceral. He often faded onstage because he stubbornly refused to accept debates as alpha combat rather than beta seminars. He disdained anything he saw as superficial politics, from sound bites to macho put-downs.
If Obama continues to resist the gladiatorial subtext, while Romney embraces it, the debates could be more evenly matched than the Republicans dare to dream.