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Left and Right Come Together to Slam Obama’s Bomb of a Night (and Lehrer)

But was the president's bland, dispassionate performance actually part of a campaign strategy?

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

October 3, 2012 - 9:08 pm
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Tonight’s debate consisted of segments on the economy, entitlements, health care, and governance.

“Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. And, you know, I appreciate and it appears we’ve got some agreement that a marketplace to work has to have some regulation. But in the past, Governor Romney has said he just want to repeal Dodd- Frank, roll it back,” Obama said in one of the lightweight sparring sessions.

“And so the question is: Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that’s not what I believe.”

“Sorry, but that’s just not — that’s just not the facts. Look, we have to have regulation on Wall Street,” Romney responded. “That’s why I’d have regulation. But I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check. That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank. It wasn’t thought through properly. We need to get rid of that provision because it’s killing regional and small banks. They’re getting hurt.”

Obama did, however, predictably offer praise for RomneyCare as the prelude to ObamaCare.

“The irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model and as a consequence people are covered there,” the president said. “It hasn’t destroyed jobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system in which we have the opportunity to start bringing down costs, as opposed to just leaving millions of people out in the cold.”

Romney fired back that health-care reform was forged from bipartisan consensus in his state. “Instead of bringing America together and having a discussion on this important topic, you pushed through something that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answer and drove it through,” he said.

Key Obama staffers were mostly silent on Twitter toward the end of the debate, though his campaign issued several “fact check” press releases charging that Romney did not practice bipartisanship in Massachusetts, supports outsourcing, and wouldn’t create a job with his 5-point plan.

The Romney camp issued its own fact checks on high youth unemployment under Obama, tax hikes, and rebuttals to Democratic claims on Romney’s tax plan.

Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, ceded on CNN tonight that Romney won “the style points.”

“But that’s not what has been dogging his campaign. What has been dogging his campaign are the policies that he doubled down on tonight,” she said. “…He spent a lot of time on defense on these policies. And you know what’s worse? He got testy about it. He got testy about being on defense, and I think that came across to the American people.”

Obama, Cutter said, “wasn’t speaking to the people in this room, he wasn’t speaking to the pundit class, he was speaking to the people at home.”

“I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator, because we had Mitt Romney,” she quipped.

Obama’s robotic performance and disuse of several hit points against Romney quickly led to speculation about whether it’s part of a greater strategy on the part of the campaign, banking on those who peak first falling first — even though early voting has already begun in many critical areas. Would a “thrown” debate rally the president’s 2008 base to the polls?

Next up is the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, followed by a town hall-style debate Oct. 16 between Romney and Obama in New York, moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley.

The final debate, focusing on foreign policy, is Oct. 22 in Florida. It will be identical to tonight’s debate in style and will be moderated by CBS’ Bob Schieffer.

“On debate: Lehrer seems over his head as moderator,” tweeted Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

“Missing Wolf Blitzer as moderator tonight,” tweeted Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.).

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Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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