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Winning the Debate, Losing the Media War

LET THE SPIN begin. What I warned was going to happen yesterday is in full bloom, because try as Obama might last night, Mitt Romney’s debate strategy assured he could slither away from being pegged as un-presidential by the president, because you only get one chance to make a first impression and that came in the first debate.

Romney’s continued case-building for his own presidency versus Obama’s “proven track record” and promise to “finish the job” now has traction. The man who also answered the call by 62% of Americans to change the current trajectory of this country is now seen to be Willard Mitt Romney, who is today being declared the “winner of the debate series.”

Obama didn’t beat Romney in the debates, regardless of the outcome of the last meeting on foreign policy, a topic most Americans only follow through watching the broad strokes. Romney was nothing if not the king of this understanding last night.

Americans are war weary.

Got it, Romney said, I’ll get you out of Afghanistan.

Economy worrying you?

No problem, I’m a businessman and I’ve got the answers.

Want a change, but afraid of the last Republican misadventurism?

Don’t worry, be assured, I’m a man of “peace,” understanding that we can’t “kill our way out of this mess” and I won’t try. I’m not George W. Bush.

That’s the framing that was up for grabs last night and Obama lost the advantage, because Mitt Romney knew he couldn’t compete with the commander in chief, so he had a different debate. He quit worrying about what he couldn’t do and started ticking off ways to convince voters that didn’t matter, because he was going to do what they needed.

Decisive win for Obama in the last debate was called by CBS, CNN too.

The Wall Street Journal declared Mitt Romney “A Perfectly Plausible President.”

It answers the fundamental question that’s been out there from the start. There is no doubt Americans want a change from President Obama’s leadership. The question has always been a viable alternative. Mitt Romney put sail to that question in the first debate, which set the stage for the underdog to claw his way back, an American plot line political writers can’t resist.

Mark Halperin’s “grades” above are the most representative of the winds facing President Obama right now.

President Obama has lost the media war. Even MSNBC is repeating the “Romney won the debate series” narrative that began last night with Bill Kristol’s “President Romney,” which landed before the debate was over. Win the series, it’s proof you can be president, no matter how it’s done. Romney succeeded, he is the viable alternative Americans have wanted all along.

Control the spin, control the story.

Mitt Romney’s reset on his right wing neoconservatism was so welcome it had people like Joe Scarborough, who admitted Obama “outclassed” Obama, singing his party’s nominee’s praises. In Politico today:

Still, Romney did enough things right to keep the momentum going his way. The former Massachusetts governor’s tone was nearly perfect and he abandoned the hard neoconservative line that had concerned more traditional conservatives like myself. Call it flip flopping if you like. I actually believe that realist approach fits Romney better and will be his governing philosophy if he ever becomes commander-in-chief. It’s hard to imagine a man so driven by data being swept up in a Wilsonian worldview. Unlike George W. Bush, I seriously doubt President Romney would promise the end of tyranny across the globe anymore than he would vow to stop the rising of the oceans.

This is the kicker, the bottom line, the sale of all sales. It begins with the fact that Republicans and many independents simply never believed Mitt Romney was the right wing crusader and neconservative saber rattler that he was playing during the primaries.

Scarborough is exactly correct, though he’s laughably wrong when he talks about Romney’s alleged “realist approach.” Romney wouldn’t know a realist from a Bushie, because he doesn’t care. All Romney wants to do is win and he’s seen the data, which is the way he makes his decisions.

Americans don’t want a bellicose president on the path to international empire. They don’t want another George W. Bush, which Romney’s Pentagon bluster had teased. Voters also are ready to change presidents, which has always been clear.

Mitt Romney is now seen to have “won the debate series.” On political points and tactics this is inarguable. In a country where political transparency and policy honesty long ago became the casualty of media wars and surrogate sales pitches, no one should be surprised that Mitt Romney’s marketing plan included whatever it takes to win and a plan to make it happen.

Team Obama could even begrudgingly give credit to Romney and his team for a debate strategy they themselves would have launched if the positions were reversed.

President Obama let Mitt Romney off the mat in the first debate, changing the perception of his opponent forever. No one expects the challenger to best the commander in chief. What people wanted to see is if Mitt Romney could stand equal and give a vision they could accept. He did.

The race is now too close to call.

Obama won last night’s debate by a mile, but he’s lost the media war at a time when it matters the most.

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13 Responses to Winning the Debate, Losing the Media War

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter October 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    “No one expects the challenger to best the commander in chief. What people wanted to see is if Mitt Romney could stand equal and give a vision they could accept. He did.”

    Couldn’t possibly disagree with you more Ms. Marsh. Mittens came across as lame with a capitol L.

    • Taylor Marsh October 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      In the media war, sech, you are simply wrong.

      Two weeks out, it’s what matters.

  2. secularhumanizinevoluter October 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Apparently simply not drooling and gibbering incoherently is counted as a stellar performance for a repugnantklan/teabagger/UBERCULT….OOOPS UBERChristian these days.

    • PWT October 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Yes, Mr. Obama has made it easy for the challenger. Kind of demonstrates what a poor presidency he’s had so far, doesn’t it?

      • jjamele October 23, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

        I’m quite certain Secular went into the debate with an open mind, willing to score it for “Mittens” if his performance justified it. And I’m quite certain that the sun will rise in the West tomorrow.

        Seriously, this is why I don’t watch post-debate “analysis” on Fox or MSNBC. If the decision was made long before the game was played, why am I watching?

    • Taylor Marsh October 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      Where did I write Romney gave a “stellar” performance. I have written quite the contrary.

      It was the strategy that worked, because the media writes the story after a series of debates, which goes to the challenger because the 1st debate completely changed the trajectory of this race. If Romney hadn’t performed the miracle he did in debate one, for which Obama was partly responsible, this race would have been a rout by Obama.

  3. jjamele October 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Both candidates came off as “presidential.” The problem is that, these days, that is damning with faint praise.

  4. T-Steel October 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    Please just let it be 269 – 269! And since an Election Night electoral tie really doesn’t mean a tie since the electors don’t meet until December 17th this year… YES!!

    And to top it off that only about half of the states of this great union have laws requiring their Electors to vote for the popular vote winner… dearest Taylor (bloggingly of course), we’re REALLY going to see how that Media War in such stark detail that you will have to with 15 or 16 parts on it. A perfect ending for the Campaign 2012.

    By the way, took advantage of South Carolina’s early voting and checked Stein/Honkala (Green) for POTUS. But had to give my vote for the SC 7th District to Tom Rice (R) because his opponent, Gloria Bromell Tinubu (D), pulled the ol’ “I can leave Atlanta and go to the stupid Carolina folks and snag votes up easy” maneuver. Even though the 7th district in “safe Republican”, Mrs. Tinubu’s stunt not flying.

    • T-Steel October 23, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      I butchered that middle paragraph. Corrected below:

      “And to top it off that only about half of the states of this great union have laws requiring their Electors to vote for the popular vote winner… dearest Taylor (bloggingly of course), we’re REALLY going to see that Media War in such stark detail that you will have to a blog post about it with 15 or 16 parts on it! A perfect ending for the Campaign 2012.”

    • jjamele October 23, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      This is so bizarre- I posted my favorite scenerio on another thread before I saw this post- check out the “In Stunning Reversal….” thread.

  5. newdealdem1 October 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    A companion piece to your spot on analysis:

    From the link:

    “an extremely savvy analyst who is resisting the “momentum” theme: our National Journal colleague Charlie Cook, here. And Jonathan Chait says that the “we’re winning!” strategy is a calculated bluff from the Romney side, which is paying off with many journalists.”

    The P.T. Barnum effect: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    And, this goes to the lousy state of the fourth estate, the easily-manipulated MSM media millionaires regardless of their own political beliefs. Most of the Journalist “profession” especially those found in the bowels of “CW” belt way vampires, broadcast and cable TV news, is in dire need of a colonic, or perhaps it’s just too late for a fix.

    Watching cable news, I’ve heard no one discuss this calculated manipulation by Romney and his campaign spin masters. All I’ve heard is that Romney lost the debate and that his Sybil personality disorder was on full display. Chumps.

    Many in the American public are also to blame here for being easily manipulated. What was it that H.L. Mencken said, ““You Will Never Go Broke Underestimating the Intelligence of the American Public.” Whether or not one agrees with Mencken, it’s not an unreasonable supposition.

    Three-card monte politicians who lie their way to power, the fourth estate who falls for their spin and the public who takes it all in and buys into the con full bore. Game, set and match.

  6. Cujo359 October 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Apparently, Ben Stein didn’t get the memo. In a meandering critique of a “meandering” performance by Romney, he actually managed to make a couple of valid points. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone actually reads the American Spectator.

    Sorry about the link to a right-wing rag. Feel free to delete this comment if that’s against policy, but I do love irony, and Stein is almost guaranteed irony.


  1. Debate Shock: How Romney Beat Obama | The Moderate Voice - October 23, 2012

    [...] – It was brilliant strategy and it worked, especially with the media, who was always going to take the lead. It’s “peace through [...]

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