03 Oct 2012

What Romney Needs to Do to Win Tonight’s Debate


Charles Lipson, Peter B. Ritzma Professor in Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago

My Yale classmate Charlie Lipson has some good advice for Mitt Romney in tonight’s debate.

Take advantage of the fact that Obama’s debating skills will be rusty. “Even the best athletes, if they take off for awhile, become a little rusty. He does sometimes make mistakes when he’s not reading from the teleprompter, and he has a notoriously thin skin, which could allow some of the less appealing parts of his personality to come across. The big advantage to Romney is that the news media is so openly opposed to him and spins everything that the real advantage is that the debate is actually watched by people, so it’s less mediated. A lot of times peoples’ attitudes toward the debate don’t form for a day or two. So the chance of NBC and CBS and the New York Times to spin the debate afterwards and make it kind of appear to be a foregone conclusion about what happened is not entirely missing.”

+ “Raise the issue of the deficit, but the key for Romney is to somehow connect the deficit to concrete and real problems that America is facing today—and will be facing unless it is solved. The tradition, until a couple of years ago, until the Tea Party, was that the deficit was politically irrelevant—at least electorally irrelevant—and I think that the Romney campaign has not really done an effective job of showing how the deficit problems are harming ordinary Americans. President Obama’s statement the other day that he’s responsible for only 10 percent of the increased deficit during his time in office is deeply disingenuous. If Romney is unable to attack that effectively, he’s missed a grand opportunity.”

+ Lay out just how sick the economy is, despite an uptick in consumer confidence. “Normally at this point you get what’s called a V-shaped recovery, so you get four percent annual growth. The fact that we’re getting 1.5, plus or minus, it shows that something is deeply wrong.” [I mention to Lipson that I’m told that President Obama believes the economy is going to come “roaring” back and that what keeps him up at night is the prospect of Mitt Romney taking credit for Obama’s policies.] Lipson says: “He should sleep easier. At four years after the crisis, we’re still in absolute economic stagnation. We’re not producing enough jobs each month to meet the number of new entrants into the work place, and so real unemployment is actually rising. Yes, the economy could come back, but it’s not going to come roaring back. There are no external engines in the world economy that can help pull America up. China is growing far slower than it was growing a couple of years ago, and Europe even slower than America, and many of the key economies in Europe have slipped into a double-dip recession. I think there are very serious crises ahead.”

+ “Point to the fact that the big programs that Obama has launched, the stimulus and health care and Dodd Frank didn’t create jobs and added huge amounts of regulatory burden and uncertainty to the economy. He’s got to tie this slow growth to Obama’s policies. If he can’t do that he won’t win the debate.”

Good advice.


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