Mitt Romney's performance in last night's debate left even the President's staunchest supporters groping for explanations of what went wrong. The format of the debate, Jim Lehrer's laissez faire moderation and strategic missteps are all being fingered as suspects for what is widely regarded as a defeat for the Obama campaign. In the attached video, Romney adviser Robert O'Brien discusses what happened last night and where the campaign goes from here.
"Obviously a win for the Governor"
O'Brien isn't shy about declaring victory, a triumph he not surprisingly attributes to both the President's weakness and his own man's strength. "What was remarkable, I thought, was that the President couldn't defend his record for the last four years and didn't have anything to offer for the next four years."
It's a great line, but critics contend that Romney keeps changing the menu for what he's got planned. This alleged shiftiness clearly threw the President early in the debate when Romney flatly denied proposing a $5 trillion tax cut "for the rich." Naturally, O'Brien says any confusion is on Mr. Obama. Romney's isn't a tax hike or drop, O'Brien says, but rather a "revenue neutral" combination of lowering rates for everyone, closing loopholes and endeavoring to "broaden the tax base."
An American Renaissance
With an unemployment rate stuck at over 8% and participation in the labor market sitting near 30-year lows, key elements of both campaigns are about jobs. Hinting at a catchphrase to come, O'Brien says Obama's form of stimulus is "trickle-down government," meaning hiring more public workers while hiking taxes.
Playing to ideological type, Romney is pushing to utilize America's largely untapped natural gas resources and develop the Keystone Pipeline to achieve the energy independence every American politician has promised for the last 40 years. Domestic sourcing leads to reduced energy costs, which makes it more competitive to build factories in the U.S., resulting in more middle-class jobs. It's not a new argument, but that doesn't mean it's without appeal.
O'Brien says Romney is offering a "recipe for an American Renaissance." The main course is simply getting the government out of the free market's way. The message is one Republicans have been using for years, and Romney carried the day with it last night. The President will show up in better form when they meet in a Town Hall on October 16. What changed last night is that now Romney clearly has a shot unless Obama can pick up his game.
At long last, the election of 2012 has gotten interesting.
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