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.
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.