Debate and Switch

September 24, 2012

Both local dailies front-page debate stories today as campaign season shifts into high(er) gear.

Via the Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages:




The Globe piece is pretty straightforward:

First debate called critical for Mitt Romney

Higher stakes than for Obama

After months of sniping from a distance, President Obama and Mitt Romney are nearing the unsparing crucible of one-on-one debates that could alter the dynamics of the presidential campaign.

For Romney, particularly, the stakes are enormous.

After a month of missteps and missed opportunities — from his convention speech, to his reaction after the US ambassador’s death in Libya, to a video in which he described nearly half the country as government-dependent “victims” — Romney faces three debates in the national spotlight, beginning Oct. 3 in Denver, that could bolster or bury his chances.

“Unquestionably, he has to do well in the first debate,” said Rob Gray, a Republican strategist who was a senior adviser in Romney’s successful 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor. “There’s more on the line for him, whereas Obama has proven before that he can handle it.”

The Herald, on the other hand, has three – count ’em, three – columnists on debate patrol. Start with Joe Battenfeld’s cover story:

A glimpse inside Mitt’s strategy

He’s not Mitt Romney, but he got to play one in debate practice. And he says the real Mitt needs to resurrect his personable performance from 10 years ago to beat President Obama in their upcoming face-to-face showdowns.

Jeffrey Robbins, a Boston attorney who played the role of Romney as Democrat Shannon O’Brien prepared for the debates in the 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race, divulged for the first time key details of the Democrats’ strategy to turn Romney into “Gordon Gekko” — a strategy that ultimately failed then.

Robbins predicts Obama’s debate plan will come right out of the playbook 10 years ago, when Democratic gubernatorial nominee O’Brien tried to reinforce Romney’s image as a greedy, out-of-touch businessman.

Bit of a stretch there, eh?

Next up is Holly Robichaud’s piece giving advice to Romney.

Like Brown, Mitt must pack a punch in his debate

Last week it was great to see an aggressive U.S. Sen. Scott Brown take on Lizzy Warren. After months of her endless whining commercials, Brown called her out on multiple issues — including her fake American Indian status, helping Travelers Insurance avoid paying poisoned asbestos workers and her whopping $350,000 salary for teaching one class at Harvard University.

Brown had the right combination of talking directly to voters and discrediting Fauxahontas. He showed how a candidate can remain likable, but still deliver a solid punch.

Our former Gov. Mitt Romney would do well to take a page out of this playbook. President Obama is not going to be forced out of the White House if Romney keeps playing defense. It is time to put points on the board.

Finally, Kimberly Atkins weighs in:

Wisdom of pols’ rules is debatable

WASHINGTON — The debate season is in full swing, and with it we are seeing the emergence of a nifty approach by some candidates as they prepare to face their rivals face-to-face: avoidance by agreement.

The true pioneer of this debate is U.S. Rep. John Tierney who, as the Herald reported, insisted sponsors of two of four scheduled debates with GOP challenger Richard Tisei focus only on certain topics and preclude the participants from asking questions of one another.

Of course, this conveniently will allow Tierney to avoid an issue both Tisei and national Republicans have focused on: his in-laws’ gambling ring and his wife’s federal tax-evasion conviction.

Atkins goes on to relate other debate-related kerfuffles before offering some free advice to candidates, such as “[Elizabeth Warren] could try to throw U.S. Sen. Scott Brown off  his well-rehearsed game by demanding that the candidates be barred from using the word ‘professor,’ thanking the moderator after each question or referring to a truck at any point.”

The hardreading staff would be all for that.