With polls widening even further in Obama's favour after Romney's 'fundraiser-gate' (to paraphrase his 'inelegant' remarks: '47% of Americans are tax cheating, benefit-sucking lowlifes'), the upcoming debates loom extremely large for both candidates. To show you how important it is for Romney, when he isn't sporadically campaigning or 'autumning' in his NH lakehouse, he's spending virtually all of his time debate prepping.
The stakes are huge for the former governor. He must win back his fleeing electorate by convincing them he is a viable candidate for '100%' of the people as well as show he has a 'specific' plan for America. To use the proverbial boxing metaphor, he needs to score a 'knockout' punch, or at the very least, land some heavy blows that catch his opponent off guard and win on points. This will tighten the 'swing state' races, put all future debates in play and make it close until November.
For Obama, a killer performance could be the nail in the coffin that he needs to make his current campaign momentum unstoppable. He needs to make Romney look like the guy they've already been portraying thus far: an automaton who can't relate to the average Joe (or Jane or Jose) and is out to screw the middle class. If the President wins on decision, it could be enough to go the distance but a TKO or a KO would almost assure an early end to the race (barring some kind of major fuck-up) and he could pretty much pop the prosecco on 3 October (unintentional alliteration).
Because of the singular importance of this first debate, I have thought up some handy tips for both candidates on how they can punch (or in Romney's case, 'sail') their way to victory:
- Don't be Apollo Creed.
In other words, don't get too cocky. Remember the scene in Rocky when Creed is doing business on the phone while his bald assistant watches Balboa train by hitting the beef in a subzero meat locker? Creed didn't take Rocky seriously. Imagine Obama in a similar scenario: he's on the phone in Oval Office yelling at Hillary, eating a pastrami sandwich and going over his daily briefing while Axelrod watches Romney doing his debate prep on TV by adeptly sailing past buoys which have key planks of his platform on cue cards. There would never have been a Rocky II if Creed had trained properly. I rest my case.
- Fuck being a human.
Who are we trying to kid, you are who you are, don't change this late in the game by removing the stick out of your anus. All we hear about from people who claim to know you is how great you are in business meetings. Well, treat this debate as one huge powerpoint demonstration and all of America are your employees. Be detailed and precise and anal, just like we expect you to be. Correct Obama if you find he's wrong. Make it seem like you're in charge. The problem up to now is you show amazing glimpses of rigid uppercrustiness, but you're not really saying anything. Or if you are, it's on tape and that's what you call 'off the cuff', which is code for 'the truth'. So be factual, detailed and specific. Embrace your inner Gekko, and I don't mean the insurance company.
Since debates are often measured by who looks more presidential, here are some ideas as to how to throw the other candidate off guard...
HOW TO THROW ROMNEY OFF GUARD
- Talk about science.
Science reminds us of technology and technology reminds us of iPhones. The logic here is if you can paint Romney as anti-science, then he will be viewed as against talking on the phone, i.e. backwards. Pin him down on his belief in Darwinism, global warming, supply-side economics. If Obama can put Romney on a retro lazy susan and put it in a nice package with a pretty 'W' on it, he's won. The public will think he's like a grumpy old Dad who's against change and they will not want to vote for him. I was going to say 'old boxer' but I think I've dropped that metaphor now.
HOW TO THROW OBAMA OFF GUARD
- Present a more detailed policy than Obama.
He won't be expecting this from you, Mitt. Act like you're the only one thinking about stuff. Probably the best thing to speak about is energy, although your current plan is ridiculously centered on oil and coal. But if you can state a detailed 'energy' policy that looks towards the future and ties it to foreign policy, ie, with my plan, we wouldn't have all this Middle East mess, then you might have an opening. If you have reasoned ideas and seem fair, the public will think you're like a responsible dad and want to vote for you.
Most debates are measured in gaffes, like Ford's 'Poland is not communist' or great lines like Reagan's 'there you go again'. While you can't control the other person's gaffes, you can come up with some great lines...
Lie in wait for anytime Romney mentions Russia then jump on it and say: 'You mean the Russia that you said was our number one enemy? I think I read about that on your myspace page.' (or something funnier) Face. Or 'I guess we also have to worry about Sputnik, too'. Don't be too smarmy or else it could backfire.
If Obama tries to mention any number close to 50 during the debate, all you have to do is say, 'I thought 47 was more your number'? Literally, that's all you have to say. It trivialises his argument (whatever it was) and makes a joke about Romney and does it in a very subtle way without hitting it on the head. Boom.
Guns and Religion
You have to have a comeback for the '47' and surrogates have already been dredging up Obama's 2008 comments about rural voters 'cling to their guns and religion'. So if Obama makes a big deal out of the '47' comment, you say, 'I want those 47% to join the 53% to make 100%, but you catergorise them as 'what did you say' bitter because they cling to guns and religion'. That will probably equalise things as best you can, now move on.
Focus on the next four years...
'Based on what you've seen [give your list of Obama grievances], will you be better off in the next four years?' It's risky, but if you have policy to back it up and Obama's not doing very well in the debate, it will be effective, make a nice spin on Reagan's line and definitely get into the newso-blogosphere the next day.
So, there you have it. Just a little bit of advice for the two gladiators. Let the training begin... and if anyone uses any of this, I'm going to have to get my personal attorney after you.