Obama's Rough Road Ahead
The October 3 debate ought to have been Obama's easiest to win. Although the economy is in ghastly shape, Obama's Marxist-lite rhetoric panders to the envy and greed of millions of Americans. The Democrat campaign bet heavily upon painting Romney as a rich investor with rich pals who has no idea how ordinary Americans live. Blaming misery on the successful has been the Democrat playbook since FDR (despite the fact that FDR, JFK, Al Gore, and John Kerry were and are all multi-millionaires).
Polls suggested that this ploy was working again. It is not. The debate showed just how indefensible the left, as the malefactor of great government wealth (to put a twist of Teddy Roosevelt's famous slogan), really is to ordinary people. While there were reasons to hope that Romney could outperform Obama in this first debate -- Romney is much smarter than Obama; Romney has actually faced fighting opponents in many campaigns; and the promises of Obama in 2008 have failed so badly -- what Romney did was actually expose the emptiness and hopelessness of the left's economic program.
If nothing else, the buzz about how poorly Obama performed last Wednesday will interest viewers who might not have otherwise turned in to future debates. The solid Romney performance will enthuse Republicans and dishearten Democrats. The Democrat ticket could turn things around in the remaining three debates -- but, in fact, things will get progressively worse for Obama.
Consider what will happen on October 11. Joe Biden, the 69-year-old gaffe-prone politician, whose benefit to Democrats has been that he makes Obama look smart, will face off against the very smart, very fit 42-year-old Paul Ryan. Romney set the tone: Republicans will defend our positions on issues like entitlements. Ryan is the man who can run circles around a hack like Biden.
Ryan has not only youth, intelligence, and ideas on his side; Ryan and Romney both have won campaigns in which most of the voters were Democrats and independents. Biden has no clue how to appeal to anything but the Democrat base. Moreover, Ryan exudes confidence and optimism. He is as close to Reagan as Republicans have had in the last quarter-century. What does Biden exude? Shopworn clichés and smugness.
On October 18, Romney and Obama will face questions from undecided voters selected by Gallup in a town hall-style debate. Although this might seem a mine field, it actually is the perfect time for Romney to outdo Obama in the single area in which Obama has continued to do well in the polls: likeability.
Both will get hostile questions during the town hall. While Obama is notoriously thin-skinned, Romney has consistently over the last 18 years in politics been polite, calm, and controlled. If Romney simply comes out of this debate as likeable as Obama, he wins. If Obama snaps at some citizen-questioner or seems disengaged, then Romney wins big.
The last debate on October 22 will be on foreign policy. There is a myth that presidents succeed politically when foreign policy and national security is a shambles. Elections show otherwise. In 1918, Democrats paid heavily for Wilson bringing America into a world war. In 1942, less than a year after the "rally 'round the flag" Pearl Harbor sentiment, Republicans made huge gains in both houses of Congress.
Korea was a principal reason why Democrats lost in 1952, and Vietnam was a big reason why Democrats lost both 1966 and 1968. Although Carter was probably a goner in 1980, the ineptness of his handling of the Americans held hostage in Iran was the final nail in his political coffin. Bush was hurt by our long wars in West Asia in 2006, and Obama won, in part, because of that in 2008.
Moreover, Obama has opened himself up by egotistically portraying himself as an expert on foreign policy, while Romney has been presented as someone who cannot be trusted with national security. The natural modesty of Romney and the natural arrogance of Obama will blend into a perfect storm working in Republicans' favor.
In no area of his presidency has Obama been more conspicuously incompetent as in foreign relations. There are so many areas in which Obama could get zinged that it is hard to predict which will hurt the most. The murder of our Libyan ambassador, with abusive treatment of an American filmmaker as a notional culprit? The creeping certainty that Iran will become a nuclear power? The slandering of the Polish people with his "death camps" comment? What is strikingly clear is that there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- good that has come to America in the world because of Obama.
The first debate was very bad for Obama. The coming debates will be catastrophic.