The Big Debate: REE-Act

Reprinted from

The pundiferous universe was acting as if the laws of political physics had been repealed as it tried to make sense of Barack Obama’s abysmal performance in his debate with Mitt Romney Wednesday night.

Why didn’t Obama respond? Why didn’t Obama mention the 47 percent? Or Bain Capital. Or that dog-on-the-roof-of-the-car thing?

Why, at a minimum, didn’t Obama challenge Romney on the facts?

The initial response of the Left was to try and change the subject. “How about them right wingers, huh?” Or, “Well, Al Sharpton thought Obama was great!”

By Thursday afternoon, the Obama campaign (and MSNBC) had reverted to type and was accusing Romney of lying. Lying. LYING!

I Tweeted: 16+ hrs on, the Obama team has finally found its voice: “Romney lied” Problem is: Even if true, Obama didn’t know. He doesn’t do details.

I think that’s correct.

I did Warren Olney’s Public Radio International program, “To the Point” and some guy was on with me that said Romney’s claim that 50 percent of alternative energy projects had gone bust at a cost of $90 billion was soooooo wrong.

It was only four percent of projects.

I said (a) 4 percent of $90 billion is still a lot of money (I later did the actual calculation and found that it really is a lot of money: $3.6 billion – I was righter than I thought). And, I said, (b) Obama had no idea whether the figure was 5 percent, 50 percent, or 150 percent.

I have done my share of debate prep as we discussed the other day. My absolutely uninformed analysis is that the Obamas wanted to minimize the “Romney gains in stature just by being on the same stage with Obama” effect.

To that end, they didn’t want Obama to engage Romney. They didn’t want him to answer Romney. They didn’t want him to even look at Romney.

Bad plan.

Obama looked at moderator Jim Lehrer or down at his notes or, later in the debate, the camera but almost never at Romney.

I am convinced that, on a personal level, Romney represents everything Obama grew up hating: A child (literally) of privilege who had all the advantages of being rich and White in America.

When Obama was a community organizer in Chicago railing against the rich folks who lived in the high rises on the lakefront; Romney was, metaphorically, the guy he was talking about.

Meanwhile, Romney looked at Obama while he was lecturing him on why he (Obama) was wrong, and why he (Romney) was correct.

Romney looked at Obama while Obama was stumbling around for an answer to a question Jim Lehrer had never asked.

Romney looked at Obama like a CEO might look at a direct-report who has come to a meeting completely unprepared.

Romney, thus, succeeded in reducing Obama’s stature as they stood side-by-side.

The problem for the Obama campaign is this. Romney was already beginning to rebound in the polls from about three weeks of being off message

If the snap polls …


I didn’t watch any of the cable chat shows prior to the debate, because I didn’t want anyone telling me what I should be “looking for” during a program I was about to watch.

I didn’t watch CNN during the debate, because Wolf Blitzer warned us they would have dial-testing lines running at the bottom of my screen telling me what other people were thinking about what I was watching.

I didn’t watch any of the post-debate analysis, because I didn’t want my analysis about what I had just watched to have been influenced by what anyone else thought I should have thought.

… the snap polls are any indication: (CNN had it 67-25 Romney and a CBS poll had it 46- 22) then the national and battleground state polls will continue to close.

The absolutely dumbest explanation for Obama’s dismal performance was from – wait for it – Al Gore who said that Obama had been unduly affected by the altitude in Denver.

First of all Romney wasn’t at his sea-level home in Southern California. He was in Denver, too. Second, when I first read the quote I thought Gore said “attitude.”

And I thought he was right.

The Obama campaign staff are pretty smart. They know they had the wrong theory about this debate. They won’t repeat the mistake.

Think of this debate like it was the make-good for the convention bounce that Romney didn’t get.

Editor’s Note: Rich Galen is former communications director for House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator Dan Quayle. In 2003-2004he did a six-month tour of duty in Iraq at the request of the White House engaging in public affairs with the Department of DefenseHe also served as executive director of GOPAC and served in the private sector with Electronic Data Systems. Rich is a frequent lecturer and appears often as a political expert on ABC, CNN, Fox and other news outlets.