By Micco Fay – Sundown United – Austin
I think Obama’s debate performance may have been one of the most brilliant political moves ever in a Presidential Election.
Romney had been on the ropes politically and ripe for a knockout punch by Obama in the debate. Instead, Obama… pulled punches? He didn’t mention Bain Capital, the 47% comment, women’s reproductive rights or Mitt’s tax returns; all haymaker swings if they land and stick. Obama also did not tout his accomplishments from Obamacare, ending of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the auto bailout, sustained job growth, and more. He didn’t defend attacks by Romney about investments in clean energy, 47 million on food stamps, rising gas prices, stimulus bill, and more. He didn’t challenge Romney on his several erroneous facts and numbers. Lastly, he just looked bad visually with no eye contact, stuttering, and long-winded answers. If you look at past debates with Obama and other spontaneous interactions with opposition leaders, you see none of these weaknesses (well, maybe the long-winded part). I think most moderately informed Democrats felt they could have done a far better debate job than Obama even with no preparation.
It’s so unbelievable that a now seasoned politician can perform so poorly. So unbelievable, in fact, that I find it necessary to invoke Occam’s Razor. If it is not fathomable that Obama can just perform so badly in a debate, then it must be that Obama intentionally performed so poorly at the debate. The obvious follow up question then, is why?
Some pundits and media outlets have applied spin to the Obama’s performance saying he coasted in order to see Romney’s hand and talking point attacks so Obama could pounce after in subsequent debates and ads. A fair enough assumption, but why bother with that if Romney was on the ropes and a solid debate performance would have put him out of competitiveness in the minds of most democrats and more importantly, conservatives? Why allow him to stay alive with any hope?
To answer this, we have to look back at the past 2 years in Washington. In 2010, Republicans, with the spike of enthusiasm from the Tea Party and financial backing of the Koch brothers and the like, won sweeping victories in not only Congress (taking back the House), but also in many state, city and county elections. It was a shrewd move by Republicans who now have used this power to not only block many initiatives by Obama on the federal level, but also give us fun new laws like the immigration law in Arizona, laws dramatically limiting abortions in several states, and most recently, voter ID laws whose rushed implementation blatantly smells of voter suppression of certain voting blocs (democrats). All in all, it’s made for a very tough 2 years for Democrats as they deal with the Republican controlled country changing the very ground on which politics are fought on. It appears this has not gone unnoticed by Democrats and the Obama campaign, but again, how does intentionally losing the debate help Democrats in this area?
The Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court has opened up a floodgate of money to political process. Many of you have heard of the term “Super PACs” where people and corporations (sorry, I don’t consider those to be the same thing) can donate an unlimited amount of money. In addition, there are also “Non Profit” political groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads that also can receive unlimited funds but have the great advantage of not having to disclose their donors (unlike Super PACs). In this new political arena of rules, Republicans have out raised Democrats by large margin (Google it). All this money is then used by these Super PACs and Political Non-Profits to advertise, organize, and just generally promote their preferred candidate and/or negatively attack their opponents. These Republican favoring groups, with all their money, have been spending on city, state, congressional, and national elections all the way up to helping Mitt Romney himself. Helping him alot!
With this knowledge as the backdrop, Mitt Romney has had a mediocre August and a terrible September. Even conservatives were starting to count Romney out, including those leading these Super PACs and Political Non-Profits. Everyone was looking at the October 3rd debate as the last stand for the Romney campaign before supporters truly started jumping ship. As great as it sounds to knock Romney out in early October for the Obama campaign, doing so would dry up the money funneled at him by supporters and have it redirected elsewhere… like Congressional, state, city, and county races of importance across the nation. This added influx of money redirected from Romney would inevitably influence enough of these races to make an impact, putting even more Republicans in place across the country. If you thought the last two years were stagnant nationally and becoming more politically one-sided locally, it would only become greater.
Which brings us full circle back to October 3rd’s presidential debate. If Obama knocks Romney out or even simply performs so that Romney’s performance and Obama’s performance in the Debate is tied, that leaves Romney still trailing significantly and supporters redirecting their money elsewhere. Romney would need to have a stellar debate performance to convince supporters that he indeed has a chance at winning and their money invested in him is not going to waste and should not be redirected. Knowing this and having a very solid lead in the election, Obama takes the stage at the debate prepared to do what it takes to ensure republican money stays tied up in the Presidential race and not redirected elsewhere. And whatever it takes equals Obama tanking the debate intentionally to make Romney look like a superstar.
Now, I don’t want to take away everything from Romney; he did indeed have a good debate performance. However, it was unchallenged; had Obama been truly swinging, we would not have been as impressed with Romney as he struggled to talk about tax returns, 47% and so on. Obama, meanwhile, though taking a hit in the debate, still has a substantial lead in key swing states and debates rarely move the polls more than a point or two. Romney, however, still needs several points in order to reach competitiveness again in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. Yet, Romney supporters are now re-energized, raving about his performance, and thus, dropping dollars into his coffers and not those of other elections. At this point, Romney supporters have likely crossed a point of no return with just a month to go before the election; they are now committed. Obama can now come back in the 2nd and 3rd debates swinging for the fences at Romney, gaining back the faith of his supporters and eliminating Romney’s momentum. Meanwhile, supporters are already committed to Romney now to the end and the vast majority of their money stays on Romney and, subsequently, out of local elections. This gives Democrats a much better chance of not only holding their ground on these other elections, but gaining ground, which ultimately will facilitate a more successful presidency for Obama when he is re-elected. Brilliant!