Second Debate Sets Up Romney Win

By Dick Morris on October 17, 2012

Romney emerges from the second debate well positioned to win it all. The post-debate polling reflects that he solidly won on the key issues: economy, energy prices, and China. Obama scores well in his overall ratings in these surveys simply because he benefits by comparison with his sleep-walking performance in the first debate.

Fundamentally, Romney’s smooth, polished, dignified, articulate, sincere, and compassionate manner in the debate puts to rest eight months of Obama negative attacks on his character. Barack Obama is about to learn the lesson Jimmy Carter learned in 1980 when he lost to Reagan — and found his lead collapsing after the debates. When a president with a failed record tries to win by attacking and demonizing his opponent, he can succeed only if there are no debates. Since neither Goldwater (1964) nor McGovern (1972) had the chance to show themselves to America in debates, the negative characterization of them by first Johnson and then Nixon stuck. But Ronald Reagan’s debate performance nullified Carter’s attacks and showed him not to be the war-mongering madman the president had accused him of being. Similarly, Obama’s portrayal of Romney as insensitive, elitist, incapable of understanding the problems of the average person, a tax cheat, and a cold blooded capitalist all fell before Romney’s real persona as it came through on television.

And once Obama is stripped of his negative messaging, he has nothing to say. His defense of his economic record and his energy drilling essentially boiled down to asking people what they wanted to believe — their own eyes or Obama’s speeches.

Stylistically, Romney’s dignity played very well. He struck just the right balance between letting Obama walk over him (as Ryan let Biden do) and being obnoxious and petty (as Obama appeared to be).

The Romney campaign has exactly the right ads on the air to exploit their debate edge. The sixty second ad they now are running in swing states, featuring Romney’s first debate narrative on the economy played over faces of Americans suffering from economic distress is just the right move.

Specifically, Romney:

1) Explained his tax plan very well. His suggestion that he would allow up to a flat $25,000 in deductions was excellent.

2) Recited the statistics of economic decline so well and so frequently that they will be repeated again and again by voters as they contemplate their decision.

3) Clearly pinned the blame for high gas prices on Obama by enumerating the president’s anti-oil, anti-coal policies.

4) Put the China issue in play big time by explaining Chinese currency manipulation. In the next debate, Romney should drill down and explain how much Chinese chicanery and hacking costs us jobs and how passive Obama has been in the face of their conduct.

5) Demonstrated his compassion and heart in his personal stories of his ministry. He should continue just this kind of argumentation.

And then there’s Libya. The intervention of Candy Crowley saved Obama on the ropes. But as inappropriate as it was, her statement — that Obama said at the outset that it was a terror attack — was technically correct, but, ultimately wrong. We all know that Obama tried to play the attack as a rally gone awry, impelled by passion generated by a film about Islam. WE heard him say so on The View, on Letterman, at the United Nations and all over the nation for two weeks.

Romney should explain that the president’s goal was not to interfere with his narrative that by killing bin Laden, he had ended al Qaeda as a terrorist organization. He did not want an attack and an assassination on his record in the last two months before the election. So he pretended that it was all because of an intemperate movie. He should cite the statements of the State Department that they never considered it a terrorist attack.

Then he should go on to show how Obama’s foreign policy based on naïveté has failed and is going up in flames. The evidence is there: the Libya attack, the increasing likelihood that Egypt will reject the Camp David accords, the turn of the Arab Spring into a jihadist coup, the unrelenting progress of Iran toward a bomb, the failure of any effort to rein in North Korea, the growing power of Chavez in Latin America and….the brazenness of China’s trade and currency policies.

Romney has this election in hand. Obama is left with nothing to stand on. No record to cite. No proposals to convey. Stripped of his negative campaign, he has nothing really left to say.

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