By now everyone has heard that Mitt Romney made a big splash in national polls, and a not insignificant one in swing state polling, following his “successful” performance in the first presidential debate. But why the swing?
I suspect it has as much to do with Romney as it does President Obama. And I mean that in a way that’s less obvious than it seems.
Yes, Romney was cosmetically “good” in the last debate. He lied his way through it, but he lied well. And the President was boring and disengaged. But why did Romney get such a lift from one single debate? Because a lot of people aren’t thrilled with the President and they’re looking for a reason to vote for someone else. Up until now, Mitt Romney hasn’t offered much of a reason. But during that first debate, the President and Mitt Romney both offered them a reason. Romney seemed to have his act together, and the President didn’t.
But more than that, the President’s performance during the last debate played into a vision a lot of voters probably already had of the President: aloof; disinterested; dispassionate. He just didn’t seem like he cared, about anything. And Mitt Romney did.
Sadly, this goes to a larger point in American, and perhaps all, politics. While policy matters, so does the voters’ impression of the candidate as a man or as a woman. That’s why Mitt Romney, after y ears of flip-flops, could woo such a wide swath of voters in just a 90 minute performance. Because he looked the part of president, the President didn’t, and whether it’s a good thing or not, the look matters.
I’ve often complained that President Obama doesn’t really fight hard enough for what he believes in, and thus gives the impression, whether justified or not, that he doesn’t believe in much of anything. By letting Mitt Romney basically roll over him in the first debate, the President only reinforced that image.
How can the President turn things around? Defend health care reform and defend the stimulus, for starters. And do so loudly and boldly. Both programs needed to be bigger than what the President pushed for, but both were still hugely important. The Democrats ceded the debate on both a number of years ago, and it was a huge mistake, as a number of us noted at the time. The Republicans were permitted to lie, and effectively redefined both as not only a waste, but actually a net negative for the country as a whole. Which is a total lie.
Ironically, while the President has worried far too long about whether the public would accept the truth about his policies, namely how good many of them have been for the country, Mitt Romney doesn’t give a thought to whether the voters will believe his lies. And they do.
Just imagine how the American people would react if they were forcefully, empathically and unequivocally told the truth about both the past four years, and Mitt Romney.