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Tue Oct 2, 2012, 09:31 AM

What Obama's Debate Strategy Will (and should) Be.

Here's a prediction about what Obama will try to accomplish in the debate on Wednesday. On the defensive side, he will try to more clearly outline his policy vision for a second term and will almost certainly have to ward off what is likely to be a steady stream of attacks on his economic stewardship from Romney.

But I also predict that he will (and believe that he should) be very much on offense. He won't go on offense in a slashing, mean spirited sort of way. But he will and should return again and again to a single theme throughout. His theme will and should be that voters cannot and should not trust Romney with the presidency.

The grounds for distrusting Romney is not that he is temperamentally unsuited to be president. Indeed, I'm sure that although Romney will be aggressive, he will be calm and focused and will have the aura of a potential president. Instead, Obama's attack will focus at every turn on whether Romney can actually be trusted to fight for the non-wealthy -- the middle class, the working class, and the nearly forgotten poor. He will and should roll all the disparate attacks they have mounted against Romney -- the attacks on the Bain capital approach to capitalism, the attacks on Romney's secretive offshore accounts, on his unwillingness to come clean about either his own taxes or his scheme to cut taxes, on his tasteless dissing of the 47% to his cabal of wealthy donors, on his plans to voucherize medicare and even, I think, on Romney's plans to repeal Obama care -- into a single overriding question. The million dollar question for voters? Can you really trust this out of touch plutocrat to wake up every day in the Oval Office with your best interests foremost in his mind? Can you trust him to give his all to protecting and defending the interests of the non-wealthy?

I hope that he will provide us at some point with a riff that can be repeated into a meme on a par with Reagan's famous "Are you better off...? If such a riff takes on the status of a meme it would succinctly crystallize the choice as Obama would frame it.

Romney will have to have some sort of comeback. Not sure what it could or will be. "I really do care about the 100%. I was just kowtowing shamelessly to my rich donors when I dissed the 47%." "A rising tide lifts all boats -- even the freeloaders." But I do suspect that if Obama frames the question about Romney in this way (thereby turning the closing days partly into a referendum on Romney) then unless Romney does have an effective comeback, he's toast.

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Reply What Obama's Debate Strategy Will (and should) Be. (Original post)
kennetha Oct 2012 OP
Enrique Oct 2012 #1
kennetha Oct 2012 #2
sofa king Oct 2012 #3

Response to kennetha (Original post)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 09:37 AM

1. I agree completely, except...

except about the meme. That doesn't seem to be his style, and it is risky. The media is probably going to be looking for something to attack him on, and a scripted zinger might give them an opportunity to make him look phony. Which would undermine his strategy of looking trustworthy, which I agree is a good strategy against Mitt.

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 12:35 PM

2. A Meme would be a good thing

It doesn't have to be a one liner. Reagan's wasn't really a one liner. It was a series of questions that Carter couldn't really provide a response to. it got crystalized into a one liner by the media subsequently.

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 01:00 PM

3. Meet the "backfire effect."

http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/the_backfire_effect.php?page=all
http://www.skepdic.com/backfireeffect.html
http://web.archive.org/web/20110511211719/http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bnyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf

The backfire effect is a one-way door for conservative disinformation. The short version is that Romney's lies will stick better if the President tries to deny them.

It doesn't work the same way with people who can actually think, so it only works for Republicans and against Democrats.

What I think this means is that Romney will be encouraged to lie even more than usual, if possible, and the President will have to address those untruths in some oblique, complicated way which turns the problem on itself and makes conservative voters doubt their pick.

That seems to require an assertive approach, as you suggest, and probably also the President will have to memorize hundreds of Romney's prior lies and position-shifts so that he can retort by quoting Romney against himself.

As a former legislative analyst, I can say this: nobody is or has ever been better at taking Republican flaws in character and ideology and forcing the GOP to damage themselves with them. If anyone can find a way around the backfire effect, it will be President Obama.

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