Sunday, October 7, 2012

Obama's Long Game

If Obama's team is shocked about anything it is probably the reaction by their supporters to the first debate. Talk about an overreaction! What hurt Obama was the overwrought, hysterical reviews by Democrat commentators. That's what the polls are reflecting.

It was not a great night for Obama but it was not a disaster. He didn't make any major gaffes. The only part of the debate where Obama was truly awful was the closing statement. He looked down or away instead of engaging the viewing audience. Yes, he needs to get his energy level up for the next debate. But the last thing he needs to do is to try to pin Romney down. That would be playing Mitt's game.

Some have suggested that Obama should have brought up the 47% tape. All that would have done is given Romney an opportunity to be contrite before 67 million viewers. Instead, Romney had to rely on a friendly question from Sean Hannity to broadcast his heavily rehearsed admission of being "completely wrong" and declaration that he cares about the 100%.

Same is true if Bain had been brought up. Romney would have used it to say that Obama doesn't understand capitalism. Free enterprise. If immigration had come up, Romney would have responded "Kobach who?"

Romney is not moored to any political beliefs. That is why he has been able to go from one extreme to another. From moderate to severely conservative and back to moderate on Wednesday night. If there was a Guiness record for political makeovers, Mitt would hold it. It is anyone's guess what he would do in office.

This is not the first time that Obama supporters have gotten hysterical. When the campaign first started attacking Romney's private equity experience, Cory Booker said that the attacks were "nauseating". Former Obama "car czar" Steve Rattner denounced the ads attacking Bain as "unfair".

Many of the same pundits currently declaring Obama's debate performance a game changer declared the Bain attacks ineffective. Some even went so far as to say that the Bain ads were backfiring. That Obama was raising his own negatives. The president's campaign ignored the pundits and stuck with its long game and today it is widely acknowledged that the Bain attacks were very effective.

Going into the first debate Obama was leading. Clearly the campaign's strategy was to play it safe. It was always Biden's job to deliver the body blows to Mitt. Obama was at a disadvantage as far as the expectation game on Wednesday night. Romney's great performance means he can no longer benefit from low expectations.

There is no question that Obama overdid the rope a dope strategy during the first presidential debate. For the next debate, he will be careful not to overcompensate and risk coming across as suffering from multiple personalities as Al Gore did in 2000. After all, any improvement in his performance will be heralded as "Obama is back" by the media and his supporters.