Photo: Courtesy of CNN
Given the lead President Obama has opened up in the battleground-state polls, the upcoming debates are likely Gov. Romney’s last chance to mount a successful comeback.Both candidates know this.
So, debate practice has consumed a lot of time over the last several months, especially for Romney.
According to this excellent article by Peter Baker and Ashley Parker of The New York Times, Romney has been practicing since June. Obama, meanwhile, has been sneaking practice in when he can—the job of President not being conducive to setting aside big blocks of time.
Some other details:
- Believing that the debates will come down to a few key sound-bites, Romney has been memorizing and practicing “a series of zingers” that his team has written for him. Romney has practiced delivering these lines on aides since August.
- Romney is hoping to make Obama look “smug” or “evasive” without coming off as an annoying scold. Specifically, Romney is hoping to goad Obama into making a comment like the ungracious “you’re likable enough” dig he tossed at Hillary Clinton in the primary debates four years ago.
- Romney’s team worries that the President will get under Romney’s skin, so they’ve had Senator Rob Portman of Ohio play Obama and hammer him about being a rich guy who doesn’t understand average Americans. Portman has apparently been so successful in these attacks that Romney has been furious with him after the mock debates.
- Obama’s team, meanwhile, worries that the President will ramble on like a dispassionate professor instead of delivering succinct, leader-like responses. So they’ve been practicing precision.
- Obama’s team is also aware of the trap that incumbent George W. Bush fell into in the first debate with John Kerry eight years ago—namely that, as President, he was unaccustomed to being challenged and therefore got annoyed. Meanwhile, by being on the same stage with him Kerry looked Presidential.
- John Kerry has played Romney in Obama’s practice debates, and he and Obama’s aides have tried to be “as annoying as a White House press correspondent”—all with the aim of annoying Obama and getting him to say something petulant.
- Given Obama’s existing lead in the polls, the team’s overall strategy is to avoid blowing it rather than going in for the kill.
The first debate is October 3rd (next Wednesday) in Denver. We’re certainly looking forward to it!
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