Mitt Romney's campaign indicated Wednesday it has no plans to rein in the GOP nominee during the third and final presidential debate.
Romney's aggressive performance Tuesday night — directly challenging President Obama and quarreling with moderator Candy Crowley — had Democrats and even some Republicans arguing he came across as too assertive, which could turn off undecided voters.
But Team Romney claims their candidate won the night with his argument on core economic issues, which are the leading concern among voters. And Republican strategists say that Romney has more leeway to adopt the role of the antagonist because it's Obama who is so heavily reliant on personal favorability to buoy his poll numbers.
These Republicans go on to suggest that Obama's aggressive posturing — necessitated by a largely listless performance in the first debate — could undermine some of his crucial likability advantage among undecided and swing voters.
“His being that assertive obviously fired up his base, but we just don’t know how it played with independent, persuadable voters,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “We know that when it came to substantive issues like the economy and deficits, Romney came out ahead.”
After Denver, President Obama went into Tuesday night’s town hall debate at Hofstra University with a tall order: He had to win back independents and women who gave Mitt Romney a second look after the first debate and he had to fire up a demoralized Democratic base.
Did he do it?
Among Democratic strategists, the consensus from last night’s debate is that he did. And the cherry on top: Romney stumbled.
It was crucial for Obama to show strength and he delivered, Democrats told TPM. At this stage in the race, you don’t win undecided voters with new information but by displaying confidence in what you will do and what you have done.
The Republican view of Obama’s debate performance is less rosy, but still largely positive for fans of the president. Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told TPM that Obama “got more out of” the debate than Romney because the president’s performance fired up his base, which was feeling low following the Denver debate. But O’Connell said it’s not clear yet whether the debate accomplished the Democrats’ second goal of blunting Mitt-mentum.
“Looking at [post-debate polling], they all felt that Romney did better on things like economy, the deficit and strong leadership,” he said. “Those issues right there — I know it’s hard to pull out of flash polls and focus groups — show this debate might not have dented Romney’s momentum to the extent that most of those on the left think.”
O’Connell said the talk about women’s issues might play both ways. While Romney made a misstep with his “women full of binders” line, O’Connell said, he also may have appealed to them with his focus on the economy. Suburban women — who pundits said were the focus of the debate for both candidates — could be open to Romney’s continued focus on the economy when women’s issues come up.
“I definitely think the president did well by talking about the Ledbetter Act,” he said. “The blue collar suburban mom, we’re still seeing, yes they’re concerned about equal pay, but they’re concerned about pay in general.”
Pay close attention to swing state polls in coming says, O’Connell said, to see if the debate moves the needle among persuadable voters.
It had all the trappings of a pro wrestling match. An explosion of umbrage. A referee who wasn't quite impartial and was quite willing to inject herself into the fray. And two candidates going on and off script in their attempts to beat each other to a bloody pulp. In the end, it's hard to declare either candidate a victor in the second presidential debate Tuesday night in Hempstead, N.Y.
President Barack Obama certainly turned in a much better performance than in the first debate. The president assumed control quickly and dominated the first 30 minutes. But as the evening wore on, Mitt Romney asserted himself on the economy, taxes, and healthcare. He saved his best line for last: "We don't have to settle for [this]."
But because the town hall format favors style over substance and because the president improved so much over his first debate performance, it's hard not to give him a slight edge overall on the evening—as quickie post-debate polls did. But those same polls also revealed when it came to substance, Romney again hammered the president.
President Obama needed to show he could fight, and defend his recession- and war-battered four years in office. And he showed up ready to do battle, in a performance that observers say is likely to stop the bleeding in a campaign that has seen dramatic losses in the polls.
But whether it is enough to propel the president ahead of Mitt Romney remains to be seen. Romney held his own, and got in harsh lines such as telling voters Obama can only offer a “repeat of the last four years.” Obama, using a line of attack he had foregone last time, went at Romney’s “47 percent” remarks.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell: “President Obama came out of the gates swinging, and after the 30-minute mark Romney is trailing the president.”
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell: “After 60-minute mark, Obama is leading but Romney is catching up. Who would have thought that Romney could better tell you why he is NOT President George W. Bush than President Obama could tell you why he deserves a second term.”
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell: “Mitt Romney had the upper-hand on the terrorist attack in Libya question, but he was unable to pin President Obama with failed leadership or policies. In fact, Romney pretty much fumbled the issue. He will likely get a second chance at the Libya issue in the third debate which will exclusively cover foreign policy.
“Romney closed strong — his best line of the debate: ‘We don’t have to settle for this.””
They say you rarely get a second chance to make a first impression. But after his abysmal performance at the first presidential tilt in Denver, President Barack Obama hopes he can do exactly that in the town-hall-style debate Tuesday night in Hempstead, N.Y.
But he's not the only candidate who needs a strong performance. Mitt Romney may have received "his best set of polls all year" last Friday, according to polling analyst Nate Silver of The New York Times. Still, if Romney is to win the White House—if he is to overcome the 15- to 20-point disadvantage he still faces in the Electoral College vote—he can't rest on his first debate success.
And he can't do it by attacking President Obama. The president and his record are not the focal points of this debate—the dozen or so undecided voters who will ask questions of the candidates are. Moderator Candy Crowley can inject herself as well, although neither candidate wants her to play a major role. But for the most part, both are at the mercy of the studio audience.
It is important for Romney to remember that style matters more than substance, that this isn't the place to explain in any extensive detail his economic plans and he should avoid trading barbs. This is not Denver. This is Oprah or The View. Listen. Understand. Exchange ideas.
To be successful Romney needs to focus on five items:
Both U.S. presidential candidates’ ability to connect with viewers will be the most important aspect of Tuesday night’s presidential debate, which could give President Barack Obama an advantage over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, experts said.
Indeed, the debate’s town-hall forum is all about being folksy and portraying oneself as attuned to the needs of the average Americans, rather than paying attention to the finer points of policy.
As such, Obama has a natural advantage, as he apparently has always been able to connect better with his audience than Romney, who has at times come off as stiff and awkward in public, experts said.
“It’s a real dog and pony show,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Town hall debates tend to favor style over substance.”
But it remains to be seen whether Romney has gotten over his public awkwardness, as Tuesday’s discussion will be much less about policy and mostly about each candidate presenting himself as someone who can relate to average voters. That means that Romney must avoid getting bogged down in tedious policy minutia, as he is known to do, noted O’Connell.
In the land of his ancestors, Paul Ryan's Irish charm is failing him.
Despite his name, Roman Catholic faith and immigrant-made-good family history, the Irish half of the Republican ticket is failing to win the allegiance of the old country from Barack Obama, a skilled hand at playing the Irish card.
Obama struck public relations gold last year by sharing a Guinness with a distant cousin in the village of Moneygall after an amateur genealogist traced his ancestors there. Pictures of cheering Irish crowds were beamed across the United States.
But 100 kilometers (60 miles) down the road, Ryan's ancestral hometown is feeling the cold shoulder and like Ireland as a whole, most of the locals are rooting for his Democratic presidential rivals.
"It's really all about Ohio. Both candidates are looking to gain footing any way that they can," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who said working-class Irish American Catholics were one group being targeted.
Charles Krauthammer said if you read a transcript of last night's vice-presidential debate, it was dead even. If you listened on the radio, Vice-President Joe Biden won. If you watched on TV and could see the smirks and sighs of the vice-president, Republican challenger Paul Ryan won.
But there was a winner last night in Danville, Ky., and that winner was Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney won in Danville, KY, because Paul Ryan held serve.
Ryan accomplished his goal of doing no harm, getting in a few zingers and buttressing the Republican arguments for limited government, reduced spending and entitlement reform. But Biden accomplished his as well. He argued forcefully for the Democratic way. He fired up the base. He made the case for President Obama’s policies far better than the president himself.
And what happened in Danville will largely stay in Danville. It’s lasting effects will be to erase Al Gore from the record book as “most exasperated debater ever” and to set up what should be two enormous clashes between the presidential candidates next week and the week after.
There are, however, still voters to be convinced … particularly in battleground states. The presidential candidate who best connects with them from this point on is the one who will be celebrating after Nov. 6.
After President Barack Obama's lackluster performance in Denver, challenger Mitt Romney has surged to even or better in both national and the all-important swing state polls. His campaign has a new bounce in its step, and Americans from all walks of life seem to have warmed to him.
This week, Democrats will seek to stall his momentum in the one and only vice presidential debate. Vice President Joe Biden, who has been in Congress for close to 40 years and twice run for president, will take on Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and to many, the intellectual leader of the Republican Party.
With the polls tightening and the campaign in its final month, the stakes could not be higher. Any gaffe, any overstatement, any attempt by either to show disrespect toward the other, could send polls rocketing in the opponents' direction at a time when such damage could be irreparable.
If this were a basketball game, Ryan's task would be to play solid man-to-man defense, prevent his opponent from ever getting a clear path to the basket and avoid the temptation—which is not small with Biden at the other lectern—to try to force a mistake.
Specifically, Ryan should: