Romney's strategy tonight was obvious. In order to defeat a candidate, one must differentiate himself from his opponent. Former Vice President Al Gore has repeatedly warned Democrats if we want to win elections again, we must demonstrate clearly the differences between ourselves and our opponents on issues and policies.
Barack Obama's strongest credentials are his foreign policy accomplishments. Knowing that he could never best his opponent in a clear debate on foreign affairs, Romney chose to come out tonight attempting to take that advantage from President Obama by obfuscating policy and issue distinctions between the two of them. He simply agreed with him as often as possible, leaving little space for the President to take a swing. The President astutely turned those opportunities into chances to draw distinctions between Romney's positions du jour and those of yesterdays gone by.
In executing this strategy, Romney appeared not to be the statesman he hoped to project to the viewing audience. He appeared simply tranquilized, at times even stupefied. Tangled up in the ropes? This was once again a different Mitt Romney from the prevaricator in the first debate or the bully in the second debate. In the arena of performance art, he projected the new, improved Mitt Romney who had an astoundingly similar position to Barack Obama on a number of foreign affairs issues.
Al Sharpton stood out brightly tonight in describing Romney's retreats as clinching, as in a boxing scenario. Excellent word to describe Romney's antics. Kudos to the Reverend Al for his excellent call on this fight.
How did I see Romney's performance? Massive epic fail. He torpedoed his own chances to win this debate, and in the process probably sank his entire campaign.
Focusing on obscure details prior to an election sometimes points to a classic Rove maneuver.
On October 16, 2012, The Washington Post reported the Supreme Court Justices ruled on Ohio early voting, mentioning why it could be a very big deal:
So the U.S. Supreme Court has refused the Ohio GOPs request to overturn an appeals court decision to reinstate early voting on the weekend and Monday before the election. This is a big, big victory for the Obama campaign, and it could arguably make a difference to the outcome in the critical state of Ohio.
Remember, this is something the Romney campaign opposed. As you may recall, the Obama campaign this summer sued to restore in-person early voting for all Ohio voters, and not just members of the military. The Romney campaign falsely claimed this was an effort to undermine military voting rights, when in fact it was an effort to expand voting rights, not limit them.
Apparently, Mitt Romneys campaign team agreed it was a very big deal. One might think it chances of stuffing the ballot box with exclusively absentee military votes had evaporated.
On October 16, 2012, (quite coincidentally I am sure) Mitt Romneys campaign sued Wisconsin over absentee military ballots. Cant get what you want in Ohio, look for the next best thing. Try to get Wisconsin and perhaps Colorado.*
WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's campaign is stepping up its efforts to ensure that U.S. service members overseas are able to get their votes counted in the November elections, filing suit in Wisconsin Friday to get a five-day extension for absentee and military voters.
"At issue is a federal law -- the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (UOCAVA) -- that requires election officials to send absentee ballots to military voters at least 45 days before a federal election. All absentee ballots must be returned by Nov. 9, which is three days after the election; the Romney campaign wants Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, to push that date back to Nov. 14.
So what are the lowest common denominators here? Both Ohio and Wisconsin are swing states. But there is a lot of Koch money in Wisconsin, so I believe financing the ground game election night simply would not be a problem. Additionally, both Ohio and Wisconsin have recently experienced voting, shall we say, anomalies? Both states have Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State (always very handy to the GOP during election years). I am sure you remember Governor John Kasich in Ohio, and Secretary of State Jon Husted with his nefarious maneuvers on early voting. Regarding Wisconsin, I am sure there is nothing about Scott Walker I can tell you you do not already know. It does appear the Secretary of State Doug La Follette just might be a good guy, so I have nothing negative about him except to say perhaps someone on Romneys team didnt do their homework .
Is this maneuver starting to ring any distant bells? Well, yes!
Ann Richards commenting on Larry Kings show during the 2000 election night made this statement:
*Doesnt Colorado have one of those Bain-associated voting machines? Take a look:
My favorite question from the audience was a woman who inquired of Romney could he assure her that if elected he would be different from George W. Bush*. Romney made some mealy-mouthed response, but Obama landed a punch on Romney's chin.
(Paraphrasing) There are differences between Mr. Romney and George W. Bush. Bush did not want to voucherize Medicare, he was better on immigration reform, and Bush never proposed defunding Planned Parenthood.
I consider Obama's response a true verbal assault on Romney, because in my opinion, there is nothing worse than being compared to George W. Bush* and pale in that comparison. What a heck of an insult, but executed so beautifully.
I absolutely loved it.
When you are planning to steal the election (remember those Bain voting machines are already in place), find a way to make the election itself seem neck-and-neck. That way when the votes are "tweaked", everyone just says, "Well, it was too close to call. Could have gone either way."
In preparation for the literal campaign, have the candidate practice his or her lying without twitching.
Do the standard purging of the registered voters lists. Tamper with the absentee balloting when and if necessary.
Reduce the number of polling places and voting hours in counties favoring your opponent. Have a line of people present to harass or perhaps even challenge voters on election day. Also have a support team of attorneys and judges cued in. Promise them if you win a seat on the Supreme Court when and if necessary.
Drive down the ability of registered voters to actually vote, particularly those in the base of your opponent. I don't think I need to elaborate here. You have already picked up on the maneuvers.
Prepare ahead of time. Get as may Secretaries of State as you can installed in key states belonging to your party. After all, they do play a truly important role at the critical hour, especially in key swing states. If your brother or another family member is available to run in any of those states, lend that person all the support he or she needs to acquire that office. Family members never write tell-all books afterward ....
Have your candidate start acting as if he is the winner. (Remember when Bush* did that in the 2000 campaign, especially towards the end?) Romney has changed his posture. He is acting in a very pompous manner, as if he already is the President. That is to get us used to the idea -- our current President is out, Romney is in. Just go ahead and start thinking of him as the President because he soon will be. And there is nothing you can do about it.
Start announcing potential cabinet members. Get your transition team ready. And do these things noisily and publicly.
Quietly assemble pollsters to put out deceptive polling numbers, and get your "technical team" quietly at work.
Have your Recount Primer on hand if needed. Can't fumble that.
Do whatever it takes to win, because achieving all that power and profit is worth the sacrifice one might have to make in his or her own sense of ethics. Winning at all costs then becomes your sense of ethics. This year, the Republican motto is simply "Do what it takes -- DWIT", which is just another way of expressing their 2000 motto, win at all costs. See how that all runs in a circle, just with different code words?
Prepare your acceptance speech. Everything is ready now except for deciding who in your small circle of the inner team will get ambassadorships and to where when you win.
What exactly does one do?
Kerrey is running for the Senate seat in Nebraska. I have always liked him somewhat. Tonight, however, his appearance on Lawrence O'Donnell left me thinking I could not vote for him if I lived in Nebraska. Obviously, I could not vote for the Republican running against him either. So the only comment I can legitimately make is that I am so happy I do not live in Nebraska. On election day, I would not have a viable choice for whom I could enthusiastically vote for to serve in the Senate as representing Nebraska.
What did he say that I found demoralizing? He spoke about the importance of bipartisanship. If elected he would make the tough decisions necessary to reduce the deficit. He spoke about the cooperation between Tom Coburn and Dick Durbin in working together to achieve a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit. He spoke well of those willing to make the "tough" choices necessary to fix our economy.
Not so tough to do though if one is retiring and not up for re-election. Tom Coburn plans to retire in 2016. Dick Durbin is telling people he is thinking of retiring in 2014. I think both of these will follow through with their retirement plans, and that is exactly why they are working together on this issue. Unlike others who do plan to run again for re-election, these two would have nothing to lose. Perfect political candidates to make those difficult choices! No future voter retribution to worry about!
So what specifically did Kerry refer to that he could endorse in the Coburn/Durbin bipartisan agreement?
In order to reduce the deficit, one needs to look at the biggest drivers. Those drivers are Kerrey said Social Security and Medicare. In order to reduce the deficit, adjustments must be made in those two areas. Kerrey said he could endorse reducing four of the biggest deductions on taxes, the increased revenue from which cuts would serve to reduce the deficit. These four biggest deductions are home mortgage interest on Federal returns, as well as deductions for state and local income taxes, charitable donations and health care costs. Stripping those deductions would generate increased revenue to reduce the deficit.
Do our politicians ever connect the dots? I think stripping an individual's ability to deduct the home mortgage interest on their Federal return would have a devastating impact on the housing market. It has just now started to recover. In the past a number of people in my generation were sold on the decision to buy a home because one could deduct the interest on his her taxes. That made the purchase of a home an investment. Remove that incentive and one is going to lose a lot of potential buyers. That is my thinking and I feel confident in saying this. Personally, I would have never bought four homes in my lifetime without that incentive. I would have just rented, preserving the ability to escape fixing needed repairs and the ability to relocate with giving my landlord 30 days notice. Removing this deduction would adversely impact, I believe, the banking industry as well as private individuals because fewer people would apply for loans.
Remove state and local income taxes as a deduction? If the Federal government taxes my say $50,000 income without reducing that income by the amount already taxed by my state of Maryland, I would consider that a double dipping. How would I respond? I wouldn't cooperate. I would sell my retirement home which I paid for over 20 years, and take the proceeds and pay off the mortgage for the house in which I currently reside. No deduction on my tax return, I am not playing. I am paying the loan off. Sorry, mortgage holder, you lose.
Remove the charitable deduction? That is just going to reduce charitable giving. Charitable giving is an important component to many Americans during these days of recession. I do not support that.
Remove the deduction for health care costs? Why not go after the real white collar crime in America -- the health insurance and prescription drugs costs charged by entities which overcharge participants and drive up the cost of Medicare and health care in general. Don't punish the participants; go after the true criminals -- those who egregiously overcharge those participants. Sorry, I do not support that either.
My position is that these changes are not truly, as politicians are fond of saying these days, sharing the sacrifice. It would hurt the middle and poor classes the most.
Why not, in the spirit of bipartisanship and just general fairness and a sense of decency, go after what the Congressional Budget Office describes as the true drivers of the debt?
Just asking ... why not go after the drivers listed on this chart as opposed to benefits that assist the middle class and impoverished?
So what does a Democrat do when his or her fellow Democratic candidate sounds like a Republican instead of a protector of classic Democratic values? I truly have no answer to that question. What is your response?
After listening to a lot of commentary today on President's Obama's response last night to the chronically lying Mitt Romney, I suddenly started thinking about the timing issue constraints within a debate format. I do think President Obama was stunned at the magnitude of prevarication Romney espoused, and in one moment's time he had to make a strategy decision: respond or ignore.
I believe he decided to ignore the lies because he sensed it was a debate trap. If he had used his allotted two minutes to indulge in a campaign of accusing his opponent of lying, he would lose the opportunity to explain his position on the issue under discussion. It was more important to President Obama to preserve that opportunity to make important points he had chosen to share with the listening viewership rather than sacrifice that opportunity to succumb to a Romney debate trap. Had President Obama gone with the first option, the option of responding to the lies, Mitt Romney would have simply countered with accusations that President Obama himself was distorting the truth to engage in character assassination of his opponent. It would have been fruitless for President Obama to so engage in a tit-for-tat upon that debate stage, one he could not win, and the choice of indulging would have resulted in President Obama's failure to submit points for consideration on the topic at hand he considered important.
Obama also knew the fact-checkers would emerge that evening and in subsequent days, and Mitt's posturing as a populist candidate, a man determined to protect the interests of the middle class and the poor, would wilt with the light of the new day.
So in this regard, I believe President Obama in refusing to be baited by Romney and reserving his time for answers to the debate topics instead made the strategically correct decision.
Timing is everything in matters such as this, and President Obama chose to use his time wisely rather than to be baited by Romney's trap. Obama's strategic choice made Romney a Chump and Obama a Champ. Why do I say this? Because in listening to today's commentary, a great number of people are calling Romney a liar and still cheering for President Obama.
So what is next for Romney?
Hang a gold Olympic medal around that man's neck. Fastest liar in a two minute sprint on political record. Inscribe the gold medal "Liar in Chief" which is far more appropriate for him than the title Commander-in-Chief. Reserve that title for the smartest participant in the debate competition last night.
The most stunning component of last night's debate was the glaring political elephant on stage advancing his populist campaign. Compared to the rhetoric of Mitt Romney's previous political positions, observers saw not the severely conservative candidate he had previously described himself as but rather the great champion of the middle class. Advocating the creation of jobs to increase Federal revenues and saying he knows as a businessman how to create those jobs defies his record as Governor of Massachusetts where his state sank to 47th in job creation. This debate performance was the debut of the etch-a-sketch candidate one of Romney's own campaign advisors warned us would appear. And so he did, championing the middle class in his populist thrust, in defiance of the earlier Romney who castigated 47 percent of the population for being "takers" who pay no taxes but cling to the government for support. Romney's entire presentation was simply breathtaking in its entirely new populist makeover.
(Text of email I just fired off to The Washington Journal)
I was not going to watch the debates but changed my mind at the last moment. What I saw stunned me. Mitt Romney talking fast and furiously, over his limit, over the moderator, and even chronically interrupting President Obama's two minutes. His goal was to totally usurp as much time as possible in order to control the debate. In that regard, he did suck up more than his fair share of time allotted during this Presidential debate. By doing so, he blocked many of the controversial subjects that have been discussed during the campaign from airing tonight. In other words, that was simply Romney being Romney -- taking more than that to which he was entitled through slight of hand and other hocus pocus.
Fast and furiously, Romney spewed word bullets into the political air which apparently impressed many political pundits. But when one pushes all of Romney's words into a pile and starts inspecting the heap, what is there is absolutely nothing compared to his known positions on certain issues. In other words, what we have is an unmitigated pile of political bullshit.
When the glare of the cameras and the noise of the crowd fade from this night, and objectivity returns through analysis of the words as opposed to the speed of the delivery, the realization will set in that once again, Romney was Romney. He lied his way through the night, enumerating changed positions each time he spoke. It was the epic dawning of the etch-a-sketch moment we were warned would come into play when the challenger entered the literal Presidential contest.
Though none tonight called it that in the commentary I heard, I do believe when the new day dawns and the fact-checkers return, the true long-lasting impression will be crystal clear. In this first round of debates the challenger on stage was merely the political chameleon we were warned would appear.
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