Thursday, October 04, 2012

Debate question: Who wants to be President?

Suppose Presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer were in the front of a fifth grade classroom and had asked, “Okay, students, who wants to be President of the United States for the next four years?”

The Romney kid in the front row is instantly on his feet jumping up and down, waving his arms in the air yelling “I do, I do!”

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Energizer Bunny on TV, but last night he was back in the form of Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile there’s Barack Obama, sitting next to the flailing Energizer kid. The president gives one of his knowing, ingratiating smiles. You get the vague sense that he’s not so sure the presidency is his first order of business.

In any case, he's not on his feet. He doesn't do flailing.

Instead there’s all this “sweetie” talk about his 20th wedding anniversary. Besides, he’s already president. He knows it’s not something to jump up and down about.

This mixing of classroom fantasy with reality is not so far-fetched because we had a good deal of fantasy in Wednesday’s presidential debate. Most of it was provided by Romney. 

But who knew? (Somebody in the Obama campaign certainly should have.)

Here’s another analogy. Mitt brought his Mr. Moderation A game to the debate. The man plays all kinds of games. As we know, he uses a quite different one when "playing" behind closed doors to wealthy donors. And there's another for the primary race in, say, South Carolina.

Last night, not surprisingly, he was out to woo middling, undecided independents.

Meanwhile the president was decidedly in his “no drama”-Obama, B-game mode.


It didn't cut it.

Back to Romney. How about that curious self-assured timbre to his voice? We haven’t heard that kind of cocky self-confidence since, well, Ronald Reagan. Did you catch it? Romney's treatment of Obama was oddly reminiscent of the Gipper’s “there you go again” scolding of Jimmy Carter.

Could Romney have been coached to “do a Reagan”? If so (and it seems likely), it was a smart move.

But there was more. Obama was in trouble out of the gate when, as the first to speak, he launched into his now familiar overview of the past four years. One’s eyes glaze over....

The well-prepped Romney responded with personal anecdotes about two people he and his wife had encountered while working the hustings.

Here’s Romney:

I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me? Ann yesterday was a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms and said, Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job, and we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?

Okay, undecided voter, what do you remember today? The Obama recitation or the two women and their plight? Oh, and the aggrieved women just so happened to be in Ohio and Colorado, two critical states in this election.

And could you, independent voter, have been thinking: This is Washington insider versus the man (and wife) of the people.

Earth to the president! Hello? Time to wake up.

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