The Right Politics

President Barack Obama has begun talking about his first presidential debate which will be held Wednesday night in Denver in odd ways. Yet, one can assume there is a method to his oddity on the topic. Before supporters on the campaign trail, he has indicated that his opponent – GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney – is a “good debater”. In the same breath Obama forewarns his fanatical supporters that he is just an “ok debater”.

When it comes to the notorious “zingers” Americans have enjoyed hearing in the presidential debates, President Obama suggests that there won’t be any on his part. He, so he claims, wants a serious discussion of the issues as if to say that if Romney does deliver a “zinger” or two, it’s to be expected but won’t be addressed.

Of course, “zingers” have helped candidates not only get recognized but also be respected. America loved and respected the “zinger”: “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” No, it didn’t win an election for the late Senator Lloyd Bentson who was a vice presidential candidate in 1988, but it stopped former then-Senator Dan Quayle from insinuating that he was a comparable politician to the great President John F. Kennedy, for sure.

“Zingers” have their place in political history, and hopefully we’ll be able to take at least one away from this round of presidential and vice presidential debates in 2012 to keep things interesting. Besides, like Senator Bentson’s “zinger”, it only stings if it fits. So, they aren’t necessarily “throw-away” lines.

So the question is: Why is President Barack Obama prepping his supporters to expect Mitt Romney to be the better debater – other than, of course, the simple fact that Romney probably is a much better debater than Obama. By prepping the Obama fanatics to expect Romney to shine through the debates, does he actually believe that a good – or even better than good – showing on Romney’s part will be less impactful if Obama concedes before the debates even begin? That’s not the case.

Naturally, it is also that Obama wants to lower the expectations of his supporters so that any performance he gives in the debates will be “better than expected”.

The reasoning for Obama’s pre-debate chatter is so obvious that one wonders why he has said anything of the sort.

A good showing at the debate should and will have an effect on the all-important undecided voters, and any pre-announced apology for being just an “ok debater” won’t change the effect it has on the undecided voters.

Besides, Romney is the challenger who doesn’t have to defend a shaky-to-(often-times)failed four year presidency like President Obama has to do. It is usually the challenger who has the advantage in such a debate where the challenger only has to discuss what he plans to do while severely-yet-persuasively vilifying what the incumbent president has and hasn’t done – while the incumbent president has to defend everything he’s done in the past four years.

Of course, the “left” won’t admit it, but we all know very well from the history of presidential debates, Romney – the challenger – will be incredible. Obama – the incumbent – will be damaged, while the question is how severely he will be damaged. With all of Romney’s challenger-advantage as well as his experience in debating and being in command of such situations, he will be “absolutely” incredible!

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.



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