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Obama can no longer win by making the race about Romney

As I read coverage of the debate last night on conservative (& libertarian) blogs, a number of things struck me, two from left-of-center pundits, the first, David Gergen, practically the mouthpiece of the D.C. Beltway establishment.

According to Glenn Reynolds, Gergen said Romney Passed The Commander-in-Chief Test.  Ace has ABC’s Rick Klein calling the debate as “advantage Romney“:

But Romney also had a strong debate, in pursuing different goals than the president. He sought to come across as reasonable rather than confrontational — a candidate comfortable with the campaign’s trajectory.

“Attacking me is not talking about an agenda,” Romney said at one point.

Emphasis added. Snap polls called Obama the winner.  He may have “won”, but he didn’t seem to persuade.  Conservatives wishing for a knockout punch* (and Chris Matthews) were disappointed that Romney wasn’t more aggressive. But, then he wasn’t trying to appeal to conservatives (or Chris Matthews). “His target audience was,” Paul Mirengoff maintains, “above all, non-partisan voters and females.”

Another consensus reaction seemed to be that Romney looked more like an incumbent, Obama more like the challenger.  As Yuval Levin put it on the Corner:

If you knew nothing about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney except what you saw in their final debate, you would have assumed that Romney was the incumbent president, that Obama was the challenger trying to unseat him, that Romney was clearly leading in the polls going in and that he remained there going out. You wouldn’t necessarily think Romney won the debate, but you would think he was winning the race.

Obama apparently came out as quite snidepeevish, condescending and small.  He wants to make this election a referendum on the challenger, but since, as Gergen put it, Romney passed the commander-in-chief test, that dog just won’t hunt any more.

We’re stil waiting to hear Obama’s agenda for his second term.  Should he win one.

*John Hinderaker addresses the conservative longing for a more aggressive Romney:

Our people were generally pleased; the ones who weren’t wanted Romney to be more aggressive. That’s a good sign. My impression, during the time I watched, was that Romney was thinking about America, and Obama was thinking about losing the election. Obama had obviously been coached to be “strong” and “tough,” and he came off looking like Joe Biden on meds. I think pretty much everyone perceived Romney as the more presidential of the two candidates.

Interestingly, John reports that he watched sports on television while his wife watched the debate.  He was probably watched Monday Night football, the Detroit Lions were playing the Chicago Bears.  How many other Americans chose to skip the debate for the game?  And it does a disproportionate number of conservative and conservative-leaning citizens would prefer football to politics.

UPDATE:  Turns out there was a baseball game on last night too.

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35 Comments

  1. I suspect the ones who watched the game are the ones who have firmly decided (or voted already, where they can), and no longer feel the need either to gain more information before voting or to see Romney take Obama apart. Watching a grown man (Obama) in a position of massive responsibility vent his rage like an ill-informed adolescent can get tiring after a while.

    Comment by perturbed — October 23, 2012 @ 4:30 am - October 23, 2012

  2. Time to run some ads in Norfolk and Newport News reminding Navy workers and families that Obama thinks ships are obsolete and nonessential.

    Comment by V the K — October 23, 2012 @ 8:26 am - October 23, 2012

  3. Mitt Romney did what he needed to last night at the final debate: demonstrate to the American people that he has a knowledge of the world; do so in a Presidential, steady approach and allow the American people to be comfortable with him should they decide on Nov. 6th that they want to make a change.

    Romney avoided the food fight that President Obama preferred because you just aren’t going to win that one when contesting a sitting President about affair beyond our borders. I sat there and just smiled as President Obama, time and again tried to draw Romney as some wild eyed cowboy.

    And time and again, Mitt would agree with the President and then draw subtle contrasts. It was like Obama would say he liked brown horses and Mitt would say, yes I agree, now, I would have probably saddled the horse sooner. It left Obama with nothing.

    I thought President Obama did a good job especially considering that he has a lot to answer for and I thought Mitt was particularly strong when he talked about the “Apology tour” and how Obama didn’t visit Israel, our strongest Allie in the area and that those Arab states took notice. That was a particularly devastating sequence for the President.

    The final statements summed up this election.

    The President rambled off and around and over his closing statement and did so in a dark, almost tired tone. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s first words of “I’m optimistic about America” and then his complete closing statement just was refreshing, hopeful and inspiring. A stark contrast to Mr. Obama. Romney got to end the debate and his ending gave Americans a reason to vote for him, which is what every election comes down to.

    Comment by NebraskaPatriot — October 23, 2012 @ 8:50 am - October 23, 2012

  4. “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”
    Eric Hoffer

    Comment by AmandaFitz — October 23, 2012 @ 9:24 am - October 23, 2012

  5. True!

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 9:54 am - October 23, 2012

  6. Now for Obama’s October Surprise: He kinda, sorta, maybe has a second-term agenda after all. An agenda of continuing to do what He’s been doing. More of the Big Government statism that has been dragging America into ruins. So shocking and impressive.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 10:02 am - October 23, 2012

  7. Dan, your “peevish” link currently is to Instapundit in general. I think you meant one of these:
    http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/155096/
    http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/155136/

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 10:16 am - October 23, 2012

  8. For chuckles – Jammie Wearing Fool shows that Andrew Sullivan is as delusional and pot-addled as he’s ever been: http://www.jammiewf.com/2012/andy-sullivan-post-debate-obama-has-restored-americas-moral-standing-in-the-world/

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 10:30 am - October 23, 2012

  9. Things that stood out at the debates.

    No sequestration – NOT SO FAST. Campaign just contradicted the President.

    Horses and bayonets – President not informed.

    Back to the economy – Romney’s strength.

    On Israel and Palastinians- Obama offered no agenda.

    Outright lies by Obama – The public has caught up. Romney no longer needs to raise them as lies. Obama lost his credibility and perhaps forever.

    Winning by points is a failed strategy for the Presidential debates. Romney knew from the beginning. Obama didn’t notice. Maybe that’s why Romney is winning.

    Comment by anon322531 — October 23, 2012 @ 10:38 am - October 23, 2012

  10. Obama’s narcissism on display: http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV?id={FF341E04-C7CD-49C3-80A1-EE4385CAEA4F}&title=Obama-This-Nation-Me

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 10:41 am - October 23, 2012

  11. Aargh, try this.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 10:42 am - October 23, 2012

  12. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. They make great museums.”

    Comment by Wesley M. — October 23, 2012 @ 10:57 am - October 23, 2012

  13. “Obama can no longer win by making the race about Romney”

    Romney’s Final Debate Message: I’ll Be A Better Obama

    Comment by Passing By — October 23, 2012 @ 11:24 am - October 23, 2012

  14. Thanks, ILC, in #7, fixed.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 23, 2012 @ 11:33 am - October 23, 2012

  15. ” All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
    Sun Tzu, Sun Tzu: The Art of Warfare

    Nebraskapatriot #4 caught it exactly right:

    Romney avoided the food fight that President Obama preferred because you just aren’t going to win that one when contesting a sitting President about affair beyond our borders. I sat there and just smiled as President Obama, time and again tried to draw Romney as some wild eyed cowboy.

    And time and again, Mitt would agree with the President and then draw subtle contrasts. It was like Obama would say he liked brown horses and Mitt would say, yes I agree, now, I would have probably saddled the horse sooner. It left Obama with nothing.

    Now I don’t know Mitt Romney personally, but I do know people that run private equity firms, and hedge funds, and to a man or woman they are smart savy people. They are smart business people with outstanding interpersonal skills. They are skilled in the art of negotiating big deals(in money and size). That is the Mitt Romney we have seen in these three debates.

    Romney has read the necessary books, studied the right strategies and has succesfully implemented all that he learned and experienced these past decades. He has run circles around obama and has made him look foolish, small and obnoxious

    The only thing Barry Obama knows is Saul Alinsky and his “Rules for Radicals.”

    I will leave this thought:

    “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    Comment by mixitup — October 23, 2012 @ 11:37 am - October 23, 2012

  16. I couldn’t resist adding yet another good link to this discussion. You’ve got to love the headline on this piece from Tim Stanley’s Blog at the Telegraph: “Romney won the presidential debate by looking presidential. Obama had a painful case of Biden’s smile.”

    Although the lamestream media is busy pushing the line about aircraft carriers, submarines, and horses and bayonets, thinking that that “zinger” will help Obama, I don’t think they realize that for a large segment of the population, it only undermines Obama. Once again, I think of some of the great Iowahawk tweets after the Biden debate: Dems haven’t been this fired up since the Howard Dean scream or the Paul Wellstone LSD funeral party.

    Comment by Kurt — October 23, 2012 @ 12:24 pm - October 23, 2012

  17. It kinda seems like mitt Romney was disavowing everything he’s ever said about foreign policy and mostly agrees with the president. Where does this leave you people with whins about Obama being weak? Do any of you even pay attention to what’s being said in these debates?

    And where are the complaints about the moderator?

    Comment by levi — October 23, 2012 @ 12:59 pm - October 23, 2012

  18. Just heard on the news, Obama is now down to saying that Romney will take “Gays, women, and minorities back 50 years!” He has nothing.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 23, 2012 @ 1:24 pm - October 23, 2012

  19. I like what Governor Christie said about Chris Matthews, that in 2008 he felt a tingling running up his leg; in 2012 it´s running down down his leg. He had just wet himself.

    Comment by Roberto — October 23, 2012 @ 1:27 pm - October 23, 2012

  20. I have never understood the typical “flip-flopping” accusation – about anyone, really, but particularly about those whose policy positions have changed as a result of either their changing position-positions (the jobs they hold) or changes in the situation they’re referring to. F’rinstance: Paul Ryan, as an elected representative from Wisconsin, had a duty to his constituents – whether or not he agreed with them – to represent *their* views and priorities; now, as a VP candidate, his constituency AND his job will, I hope, change, and it will no longer be his bailiwick either to make law or to represent the voters of WI alone. (This is in response to Biden’s claims that he flip-flopped on, what, some federal funding thing or other in the VP debate.) It was ungraceful when Kerry was for ground war in Iraq before he was against it, and indeed his changing public positions called into question whether his changing opinion was based on a better understanding of the situation or just a better understanding of opinion polls, but it IS permissible (and sometimes preferable!) for even a politician to change his mind.

    But when a candidate OR a sitting official publicly claims to do something that he doesn’t do or hasn’t done (like, oh, represent the United States on the world stage as the exceptional, “indispensible” nation), or claims to stand for something (like, oh, that Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East) that his record demonstrates that he doesn’t stand for, it makes me… impatient.

    Comment by Jamie — October 23, 2012 @ 1:39 pm - October 23, 2012

  21. Watch the video of the debate with the sound off, see if you can pick the *winner* and/or the sitting POTUS.

    Comment by TnnsNE1 — October 23, 2012 @ 1:44 pm - October 23, 2012

  22. Levi @ #17:

    [1.] It kinda seems like mitt Romney was disavowing everything he’s ever said about foreign policy and mostly agrees with the president. [2.] Where does this leave you people with whins about Obama being weak? [3.] Do any of you even pay attention to what’s being said in these debates?

    [1.] Silly Levi. It is possible to have the same agenda but to apply it in different order, with difference emphasis, with different nuance, with different perspectives.

    Here is an example: governing Israel.

    Here is another example: the US handling the mess in the Middle East. Or how Obama did or did not handle Afghanistan and Major Hasan at Fort Hood.

    Apparently, the little fascist needs for Romney to come out in chaps and a ten gallon hat and declare war on Antarctica and baby penguins.

    [2.] Obama has shown how powerful his whole empty Guantanamo idea and leading from behind and apology tour of the world and fumbling around in Afghanistan has been. “Weak” is a favorable adjective for what this narcissistic slug actually is.

    [3.] Back at you, you little fascist.

    Comment by heliotrope — October 23, 2012 @ 2:27 pm - October 23, 2012

  23. Helio’s #2,

    Well, your appraisal that his foreign policy is weak is meaningless. What are you referring to? Nobody will ever know. Let’s just see how many times we can say apology tour in a single minute, without any explanation of what that is or when Obama did it or how it produced such disastrous results, and we will pretend like this is a serious foreign policy criticism of the president.

    Of course, republicans credibility on foreign policy has been completely dessicated, so again, your concept of what does or doesn’t constitute weakness is totally worthless. Produce results at some point and maybe someone will take your appraisals seriously.

    Comment by levi — October 23, 2012 @ 2:53 pm - October 23, 2012

  24. Clearly little levi didn’t actually listen to the debates, he’s simply cutting and pasting talking points.

    Oh wait, I forgot, when Big Levi was called out on the apology tour, he was reduced to muttering “He never said ‘We’re sorry!’”

    Now hush levi the (BIG) adults are talking.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 23, 2012 @ 3:20 pm - October 23, 2012

  25. Livewire, maybe you need to change your line to, “Go to the airport and sell some flowers, Levi, the non-cultists have grown tired of your chanting.’

    Comment by V the K — October 23, 2012 @ 3:40 pm - October 23, 2012

  26. Would Obama like butter, margarine or jelly for his toast?

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — October 23, 2012 @ 3:44 pm - October 23, 2012

  27. ] It kinda seems like mitt Romney was disavowing everything he’s ever said-Obama has ever pretended that he said- about foreign policy

    FIFY.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 23, 2012 @ 4:08 pm - October 23, 2012

  28. ILC,

    Romney said he wouldn’t have gone after osama, now he says it was the right thing to do. Romney complained about announcing a timetable for withdrawal, now he says its the right thing to do. Romney said to let the automakers fail when the Tea Party was in the limelight, now he says the bailout was the right thing to do. He has been campaigning on this stuff for years and is quite blatantly swerving towards the middle at the last minute. Say what you will about a candidate who does that kind of thing, (most, including obama, do) but you can hardly accuse obama of misrepresenting his arguments. He is changing his arguments constantly, and might i add that conservatives truly dont seem to care at all. See the post at #20. Jamie recognizes romney’s flip-flopping and doesnt have a problem, choosing to believe that Romney is adjusting as he learns more and not just shamelessly chasing votes by representing every possible political position at the same time. For a movement that claims to have been betrayed by Bush’s big spending and failure to adhere to conservative principles, this should pose a problem. But nope, whatever, Obama is destroying the economy (???) so he has to go no matter what, we’ll just elect this slickster used car salesman that will say anything to get us into bed.

    Take obamacare. I will eat my hat if romney wins and makes any effort to repeal the law. He might go through some token motions and blame the democrats for obstructing, and the conservatives will believe him and forget all about it. Supposedly, this is one of the conservatives’ big issues, its supposedly ruining the economy, but it will be forgotten and forgotten quickly. Ditto with deficit reduction and shrinking government. Romney will get his tax cuts through and he’ll reduce regulations (priming the next bubble), but he knows that he cant deliver on what he’s been promising conservatives. The product he is selling is supply-side, trickle down economics, he knows its unpalatable, so he lies by omission by having no specifics about his economic plan and by contradicting everything hes ever said about most domestic issues.

    Also, the fixed it for you stuff is for the braindead.

    Comment by Levi — October 23, 2012 @ 4:59 pm - October 23, 2012

  29. Obama behaved like a petulant child last night. When he was acting like a child he was a pretentious, condescending know it all.

    Obama made Romney look better.

    My favorite Romney moments were when Romney told Obama attacking him wasn’t an agenda and when Romney wouldn’t play ball with Scheiffer’s hypothetical.

    Obama and Romney probably agreed too much, and in the end Romney looked like the adult.

    Comment by Just Me — October 23, 2012 @ 5:22 pm - October 23, 2012

  30. “Of course, republicans credibility on foreign policy has been completely dessicated”

    Somebody please tell this retard that even leftwing politicians in Europe have been dropping any Obama mention like he is dried shit. That’s the only thing that comes to my mind after reading dessicated.

    Oh and the Russians are still laughing at the reset button (gathered from Russian buddies).

    How can you understand ‘what the world thinks’ from your mother’s basement?

    And all that fellatio to Islam. We have seen what brought us: a dead ambassador.

    Comment by susan — October 23, 2012 @ 5:39 pm - October 23, 2012

  31. It kinda seems like mitt Romney was disavowing everything he’s ever said

    This… from the guy who thinks that oil companies having access to the same tax breaks as other companies is the worst sort of corporate welfare; but applauds Obama’s auto industry bailouts and taxpayer subsidies to green energy companies run by cronies.

    This… from the guy who railed against “torture” when the Bush Regime was subjecting terrorists to temporary discomfort to gather intelligence; but who praises Obama’s extra-judicial drone executions, even when they kill civilians, because they show how tough and serious he is.

    Yeah, I am totally going to buy that this individual is offering a sincere, legitimate criticism of Mitt Romney.

    Comment by V the K — October 23, 2012 @ 7:00 pm - October 23, 2012

  32. V,

    The auto bailout saved lots of jobs at a time when people losing jobs was a runaway problem. This was a unique problem at a difficult time and the decision to intervene has paid off.

    Obama ‘s foreign policy has been counter productive and destructive. I’m opposed to his drone attacks and extra judicial assassinations of American citizens and his ssecrecy still better than the republicans, still better than Romney would be, but it doesn’t mean I endorse his policies or think he’s doing that good of a job.

    That’s real criticism by the way. Notice how im being specific, and im not just flailing around like a toddler complaining about how weak he made us? Take a page.

    Comment by levi — October 23, 2012 @ 9:34 pm - October 23, 2012

  33. “Obama and Romney probably agreed too much, and in the end Romney looked like the adult.”

    10:05 PM: Mitt’s so punch drunk at the moment he apparently thinks he’s signed on as President Obama’s State Department spokesman. …”

    “Yeah, I am totally going to buy that this individual is offering a sincere, legitimate criticism of Mitt Romney.”

    Despite a lack of any evident positive momentum over the last week — indeed, in the face of a slight decline from its post-Denver high — the Romney camp is suddenly bursting with talk that it will not only win but win handily. ”

    “But if the national polls are looking even, that doesn’t mean that the election is an even-money contest. Although this race is very close, the road to 270 electoral votes is considerably more difficult for Romney than it is for Obama.”

    Comment by Passing By — October 23, 2012 @ 10:31 pm - October 23, 2012

  34. The auto bailout saved lots of jobs at a time when people losing jobs was a runaway problem. This was a unique problem at a difficult time and the decision to intervene has paid off.

    Wrong.

    When General Motors and Chrysler began closing dealerships last year, many dealers protested that the closings weren’t made with enough consideration, and that there would be negative effects on local economies. A new report says those dealers were right.

    The New York Times says, “President Obama’s auto task force pressed General Motors and Chrysler to close scores of dealerships without adequately considering the jobs that would be lost or having a firm idea of the cost savings that would be achieved, an audit of the process has concluded.”

    And this was hilarious:

    Obama ‘s foreign policy has been counter productive and destructive. I’m opposed to his drone attacks and extra judicial assassinations of American citizens and his ssecrecy still better than the republicans, still better than Romney would be, but it doesn’t mean I endorse his policies or think he’s doing that good of a job.

    Comment by levi — October 23, 2012 @ 9:34 pm – October 23, 2012

    And here we see the desperate and irrational liberal trying to spin away from the failure of liberal policy, liberal morality, and liberal values by insisting that it’s all Obama’s fault for doing exactly what liberals like Levi told him to do.

    No one believes you, Levi. You’re just trying to cover your ass for the failures of your ideology, as fascists like you have done since time immemorial. Perhaps if your parents had purchased you more education and less weed, you could understand that.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — October 23, 2012 @ 10:59 pm - October 23, 2012

  35. This was a unique problem

    No, it wasn’t. Lots of companies would love to have tens of billions of taxpayer dollars shoveled at them and be given an exemption from paying corporate taxes. The only thing unique about it was that it politically benefited a Democrat president; which is the real reason Levi is OK with it.

    Also, IIRC, somewhere between 25 and 55 Billion of that taxpayer bailout has not been “paid back” and is unlikely to ever be paid back.

    Comment by V the K — October 24, 2012 @ 9:42 am - October 24, 2012

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