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Wed Oct 10, 2012, 08:53 AM


The Plot Behind Mitt Romney's Debate Strategy



Hello, my name is Steve Leser. I am a principal with Democratic Spring Strategies and a writer for Democrats for Progress and I am going to talk about the Romney strategy for the First Debate

In the several weeks long run-up to the October third debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign let it slip several times that they had been practicing for this debate since at least June. I remember reading that and wondering what he could be working on for so long.

Iíll get back to that in a moment.

One of the astounding things about the October third debate is that it was a debate on domestic policy of which the economy is probably its most important component, and after the debate, we have no idea what one of the candidates would do with regards to the economy if elected.

Think about that.

If you are running in an election to become the executive of any country, state, province, county, city or village, anywhere in the world, you owe one thing to the people who may vote for you.

You owe them a fair representation of how you intend to govern. In terms of the economy, the basics for this are all the same.

Are you going to raise or lower taxes? Are you going to spend more in your term than is currently being spent? Are you going to cut spending? If you are going to lower taxes how are you going to pay for things? If you are going to raise spending how are you going to pay for the increase? If you are going to cut spending, who is going to bear the brunt of those cuts.

If you are having a debate between two or more candidates, the discussion of those specifics is a vital part of helping the people voting to decide which candidate to choose.

The candidates challenge each other regarding their respective plans and tell the American people why their plan is good and why their opponents plan is lacking.

Mitt Romney stood in front of 60 million American people, denied the plan he had been touting for 18 months and didnít name any plan in its place.

The real loser in what happened in the first debate is the American people. After the debate, virtually all voter groups said that they didnít receive enough specifics about the candidatesí plans. Actually, there were several specifics outlined by President Obama, including tax breaks for everyone except the wealthiest Americans. There were no specifics from Mitt Romney.

So, back to the five months of practice put in by Romney and his campaign. I thought about it for a few days after the debate. What did they practice? They certainly didnít practice selling his economic plan because he didnít talk about one. So what was all that practice about?

Then it hit me.

Every Presidential election year in the U.S., you have debates with a similar dynamic on the economy. The Republican nominee attacks the Democratic nominee for (in the GOPís opinion) proposing to spend too much and tax too much, and the Democratic nominee attacks the Republican nominee for proposing to cut taxes too much increasing the deficit and for potentially needing to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The public knows about these lines of attack, voters already know where they stand on those issues and thus the debate doesnít move many people either way.

What if, however, you could make it completely one sided?

I think this is the question the Romney senior campaign staff was floating internally back in May and June. I think they tossed that question around for a few weeks, and then someone came up with the idea of denying his plan and not offering any specifics.

If they got away with it, and it is likely they would since no one could possibly be expecting this, they would have the debate all to themselves. They would get to attack Obama both for what they would call not doing enough to bring the economy around in the past and they would get to attack his future plan and there would be nothing with which the President could respond and attack them back.

To pull this off would require the other piece of cynical magic that the Romney campaign worked on for five months. Romney would have to practice lying about his plan with a straight face. Any question or point that President Obama would raise about the plan that Romney had talked about prior to the debate; Romney would assert that it was not his plan.

In fact, according to various groups, Romney told over 27 lies during the 38 minutes he spoke during the debate. In order to maximize the impact from their plan, the Romney campaign had to work on getting Mitt to deliver what he knew to be completely incorrect statements without hesitating, flinching, looking around, or any other body language, speech or facial cues that give away people who are lying.

It isnít easy to do. If you think it is, try it sometime. Videotape yourself trying to deliver a few complete lies to a small test group of people as an experiment. You will see how difficult it is. Romney had to do this in front of one of the largest national television audiences in history over a period of 90 minutes and not give himself away at all.

Actually, Romney did flinch once during a question about medical coverage. Other than that, he delivered a lie every 90 seconds as smoothly as most people would tell another person the correct time.

I know the Romney campaign and every other Republican who sees this video is going to say no, what that Steve Leser guy is saying is not true, he doesnít know what he is talking about. But all you have to do is look at the debate. What did Romney do, what did he say.

In hindsight his plan is pretty obvious. Deny the plan he had been touting for over 18 months, give no specific plan for President Obama to address, lie about anything that could be damaging and deliver those lies authoritatively as if they were the truest things Mitt ever heard or said.

Thatís what he did and itís obvious that this is what he practiced.

Itís not like this is out of character with Mitt Romney. Every single time he has run for office, he has had Republican opponents for the nomination and ultimately Democratic challengers note how he flip flops on the issues all the time, is dishonest, and how there seem to be multiple Mitt Romneys and you never know on a given day which one you are going to meet.

You donít have to take my word for it, a Youtube search on Romney flip flops yields over 2000 video results, many of these videos were submitted by supporters of the campaigns of various Republican challengers.

Add Rick Perry to the Romney Flip Flop Youtube search and you see Texas governor Rick Perry repeat what I just said about multiple Mitt Romneys almost verbatim.

So, lying and saying a particular plan wasnít his is completely within the realm of Mitt Romneyís past behavior.

Now all of this would be fine if what Romney participated in was a comedy skit like on Saturday Night Live, or the Colbert report or The Daily Show.

But this wasnít comedy. This was serious.

This was one of the three chances the American people get every four years to see the two major partiesí Presidential candidatesí debate each otherís proposals.

To make it worse is that each debate has a specific theme. There will not be another Presidential debate this year where the main theme is domestic policy.

This was the only shot at this and Mitt Romney stole the opportunity for the people of this country to get an honest look and distinction between his economic proposals and President Obamaís.

In order to win, in order to get a few percentage points different in the race, this is what Mitt Romney and his campaign practiced for five months; wholesale lying and denying the American people an opportunity to hear his plan and contrast it with President Obamaís.

If you think about it, if this is the best they could do with five months of time to prepare, what does that say about the confidence they have in their ability to convince the American people of any plan they would intend to put forth?

It says that they not only had no confidence, they were pretty sure that if they put a plan out there and tried to defend it during the debate, that they would lose the debate.

Ironic, isnít it? In trying to use deception to appear better and stronger than they were, the Romney and his campaign demonstrated his weakness convincingly.

So if you think this was wrong of Mitt Romney to do, and I donít think there is anyone on this planet who would appreciate being lied to and manipulated this way, share this video with everyone you know. Tell people what Mitt Romney did. No one who did this should lead anything or have any major responsibility given to them I donít care what party they are in or what office to which they aspire.

What Mitt Romney did is unacceptable. Let people know about it
This article was originally posted at Democrats for Progress

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 09:05 AM

1. This is not new. Read Paul Waldman "Fraud" and see how they invented "W" and will do so in16


with Jeb.

This is also what someone who enters a race late does
stealth like
deny the past, delay

Like Arnold did.

Had Arnold been in the race longterm, he would never have won.
He breezed in due to the late timing.(He took his wife by surprise even).

And others in the past have done it.
Ronald Reagan was a liberal democrat HOllywood actors guild leader who turned way rightwing for instance

Mitt's problem is it is too late.
(if one had to theorize, which I don't like to do much anymore, I would suggest Mitt's turn was more to affect lower races than his, he knows its too late, and maybe they can save thehouse and win a few more senate seats instead of giving the dems 56 senators.
And done for 2014 and 2016.

What it also does is make Paul Ryan into an idiot, and will squarely place the blame on him after this (If only they will say Mitt picked bushie Portman he would have won, they will say

leaving Jeb the big winner in 2016

just my 2 cents worth. IMHO

and again, read how the republicans do this in "Fraud" by Paul Waldman.

and good post by the writer who wrote this, glad he made it public, the more people that write about this, the more people will read it.

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Response to graham4anything (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 09:11 AM

3. Re: "good post by the writer who wrote this"


Thank you. It's me, writer and person speaking.

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 09:10 AM

2. and what do you suppose he has up his s;leeve for debates number 2 and 3?

a good analysis of the strategy, or at least a plausible explanation of what we witnessed.
whatever the real back story on the prep for the debate one thing is clear.
romney and republicans have no respect for americans or themselves.

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Response to iemitsu (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 09:14 AM

4. Debate #2 is on Foreign policy and I think we see his strategy already.


Attack on Libya, attack on Syria, attack on Iran, attack on Israel and the Palestinians.

Romney will try to thread the needle by saying he would be more aggressive without expressly calling for war. Republicans will get the dog whistle.

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 07:53 PM

11. yes, we can see the strategy in motion already.

its frightening. romney looks like he's on drugs, juiced up. he's laughing and joking with crowds (not in his usual stilted manner) and speaking in an animated and interesting way.
is his attack plan to act clueless to net his prey?
was he masking the new romney until now so that audiences would be dazzled by his dynamism, and have no time to consider the awful plans he has for the country?
i sure hope that voters are not fooled.

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 10:02 AM

5. Bishop Romney has been lying like this for years. Where are his last 20 years Federal Tax Returns?

Romney's team knew he was the perfect candidate for the type of debate style that you describe. If I were the President, I would tell Romney that he owes the truth to the American people. After Romney's lying debate process last week, the President can now say, now there you go lying again instead of the Reagan favorite of just, now there you go again.

Restatement theme: Romney's team knew he was the perfect candidate for the type of debate style that you describe because he has been living, in his mind, as the King of the Earth over the three Mormon Kingdoms. Is it not so that the Mormon religion calls for a King in the Time that Joseph Smith will return with God on Judgment Day to divide out the Rule of the planets in the Universe? Religious values for a Bishop are a part of his life. The three Kingdoms are willed by separate personalities that will be united upon final Grant. Romney has no conscious or respect for any human except his wife, whom he will reign with, now and after Joseph Smith returns from the dead.

Was Romney granted immunity from the Draft laws during the Vietnam War? It is my understanding that France did not allow Mormonism practice in France during the time of the Vietnam War yet other young draft age Mormons were drafted depending on numbers requesting immunity through the LEDS Church. I believe that the Romney family received the escortship of the Nixon Administration as well as a secretarialship.

Here we go again, trying to understand someone who left, We the People, long ago: Mitt Romney. Someone whose parents, I believe, left their citizenship in Mexico.

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Response to DhhD (Reply #5)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 10:07 AM

7. Hit them with this song

by Heart: There you go again

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 10:04 AM

6. The only thing Obama need say to mittiot

when he begins talking about escalating US troop presence in Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East:

"Which one of your 5 sons is in the military? Why haven't they served their country?" And let mittiot trot out that line about serving their church instead.

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 12:29 PM

8. K&R n/t

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 01:42 PM

9. President Obama NEEDS to understand something visceral that Romney has done.

He needs to understand that by lying UNCHALLENGED for 38 speaking minutes and 90 minutes overall on the stage with POTUS, Romney did EXACTLY what makes soft Democrats and centrists go weak kneed. He made President Obama look weak.

It doesn't matter that what was said was untrue. Hell, when Mitt first said "I don't have a $5trillion tax cut." I actually shot some of the soda I was drinking out my nose. The lies and policies abandoned in the debate were never meant to be the issue...they wanted Obama to do exactly what he did, what is his nature - they counted on him to ponder and examine and to attempt to understand what was nothing short of craven behavior.

Bill Clinton, the most masterful instinctive politician I have ever seen, would have fileted Mitt. Bill would have hung Mitt with his own words and left the debate with a knockout on the way to an electoral college rout. Remember this one fact if nothing else - Americans don't break in any specific direction before the election outside of last weekend breaking towards the candidate seeming most likely to win. Of all the undecideds that actually vote, many are influenced the most by stories of who is "winning" because they seek a certain validation from casting their lot with the guy who is ultimately the winner....its like all the Yankee fans who show up when the team is in the World Series, or the Patriots fans who know Tom Brady and no one else on the team. Clinton knew this, but Clinton also is the consummate politician. He would have turned that debate stage into a gallows for Mitt, and once Romney stuck his neck in the noose, Bill would have nonchalantly kicked the chair out from under him and played a sax solo on the way off the stage.

But Barrack Obama is not talented in the same ways as Bill Clinton.

What Obama did was make everyone relive the health care debacle and the debt debates and every other case where he has allowed a recalcitrant Republican House to dominate his agenda, or caved to "Blue Dog" Democrats when they go weak in the knees. He made us all remember that the one thing he does without fail is attempt to allow his opponents to punch themselves out first. He was successful in the Illinois Senate race, the Presidential Primaries and the 2008 election with this strategy and he is sticking to it in 2012....the problem is that all of his previous opponents combined are not as comfortable lying as Romney is by himself. The ONE THING that shakes Mitt is when people challenge him to his face about his non-exclusive marriage to the truth. He HATES it. He hates being challenged on anything really; but like anyone else really, what he hates the most is being called out on the thing that he believes he does better than anyone else...in this case, lying!

President Obama MUST simply call out Romney's lies one by one and put him on the defensive from here out. Hit that next debate with a smug certainty that if he hits Romney with the truth, Mittens will wilt under the pressure. Don't rope-a-dope this guy...just hit him in the mouth!

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Response to stevenleser (Original post)

Wed Oct 10, 2012, 02:34 PM

10. Control the narrative.


I congratulate the republicans!
Control the narrative.
(what does the truth have to do with it?)

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