Stopping the post-debate debacle


I love out conservative writer and TV talking head Andrew Sullivan, but his blog on the Daily Beast Tuesday regarding President Obama’s debate performance was either a cry for attention or — as Huffington Post headlined it — a freak-out.

Here’s an example:

“I repeat: a 12-point swing,” Sullivan stressed. “On every single issue, Obama has instantly plummeted into near-oblivion.”

Just hold it a moment.

Did anyone really believe that the president would just sail into re-election? That the polls would never get closer? Agreed, the Romney campaign, at least until the debate, was a train wreck, but Romney, unlike Obama, did what a candidate has to do when his or her message is off track — change tactics. And, if you’re as right-wing as they come, go to the center as fast as you can, and any way you do so is game. Unfortunately for the president, Romney chose the debate to make that turn, and the president did not challenge that change. It was the single biggest mistake of the debate. Romney’s complete change to the center? A record 90 minutes. That sets a new national record. Now, of course he contradicted himself, changed policies and positions but, hey, what’s a losing candidate to do? And now he’s not a losing candidate, but one who is in the game.

Anyone breathing who watched the debate agrees: Obama lost. That said, get over it. Yes, he was not there. Yes, he was not engaged. Yes, he did not challenge the contradictions and new positions Romney uttered, and sadly he disappointed all of us who believe in him. We do not know the reason why, and if I were interviewing the president, that would be tops on the list of questions I’d ask. I guess that puts my interview request on the bottom of the pile. That said again, get over it and let’s move on. This president will learn from that night, but those who are constantly dwelling on his performance are only helping the other side. Andrew, the president doesn’t need you to tell him how bad he did — he’s bright enough to know and adjust.

So here’s what has to be done. The president, vice president and those on the campaign trail must hit their messages home every day, especially on Social Security, other entitlements and social issues. They must reframe those issues in a way that the general public can understand: sound bites. And they must not — I repeat, not — lose any opportunity to point out Romney’s flip-flopping. Earlier this week, for at least the fourth time in his life, Romney changed his position on abortion. Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to mention all his positions, then ask, Which Mitt Romney are you today? And answer it for him. Never mind; he might be another Romney tomorrow when he’s running in a different race.

If they really need motivation, all they have to do is think Supreme Court and the next president.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected].