Video: The Plot Behind Mitt Romney's Debate Strategy

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Hello, my name is Steve Leser. I am a principal with Democratic Spring Strategies and a writer for Democrats for Progress and I am going to talk about the Romney strategy for the First Debate.

In the several weeks’ long run-up to the October 3rd debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign let it slip several times that they had been practicing for this debate since at least June. I remember reading that and wondering what he could be working on for so long.

I’ll get back to that in a moment.

One of the astounding things about the October 3rd debate is that it was a debate on domestic policy of which the economy is probably its most important component, and after the debate, we have no idea what one of the candidates would do with regards to the economy if elected.

Think about that.

If you are running in an election to become the executive of any country, state, province, county, city or village, anywhere in the world, you owe one thing to the people who may vote for you. You owe them a fair representation of how you intend to govern. In terms of the economy, the basics for this are all the same. Are you going to raise or lower taxes? Are you going to spend more in your term than is currently being spent? Are you going to cut spending? If you are going to lower taxes how are you going to pay for things? If you are going to raise spending how are you going to pay for the increase? If you are going to cut spending, who is going to bear the brunt of those cuts?

If you are having a debate between two or more candidates, the discussion of those specifics is a vital part of helping the people voting to decide which candidate to choose. The candidates challenge each other regarding their respective plans and tell the American people why their plan is good and why their opponents plan is lacking.

Mitt Romney stood in front of 60 million American people, denied the plan he had been touting for 18 months and didn’t name any plan in its place.

The real loser in what happened in the first debate is the American people. After the debate, virtually all voter groups said that they didn’t receive enough specifics about the candidates’ plans. Actually, there were several specifics outlined by President Obama, including tax breaks for everyone except the wealthiest Americans. There were no specifics from Mitt Romney.

So, back to the five months of practice put in by Romney and his campaign, I thought about it for a few days after the debate. What did they practice? They certainly didn’t practice selling his economic plan because he didn’t talk about one. So what was all that practice about?

Then it hit me.

Every Presidential election year in the US, you have debates with a similar dynamic on the economy. The Republican nominee attacks the Democratic nominee for (in the GOP’s opinion) proposing to spend too much and tax too much, and the Democratic nominee attacks the Republican nominee for proposing to cut taxes too much, increasing the deficit, and for potentially needing to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The public knows about these lines of attack, voters already know where they stand on those issues and thus the debate doesn’t move many people either way. What if, however, you could make it completely one-sided? I think this is the question the Romney senior campaign staff was floating internally back in May and June. I think they tossed that question around for a few weeks, and then someone came up with the idea of denying his plan and not offering any specifics.

If they got away with it, and it is likely they would since no one could possibly be expecting this, they would have the debate all to themselves. They would get to attack Obama both for what they would call not doing enough to bring the economy around in the past and they would get to attack his future plan and there would be nothing with which the President could respond and attack them back.

To pull this off would require the other piece of cynical magic that the Romney campaign worked on for five months. Romney would have to practice lying about his plan with a straight face. Any question or point that President Obama would raise about the plan that Romney had talked about prior to the debate; Romney would assert that it was not his plan.

In fact, according to various groups, Romney told over 27 lies during the 38 minutes he spoke during the debate. In order to maximize the impact from their plan, the Romney campaign had to work on getting Mitt to deliver what he knew to be completely incorrect statements without hesitating, flinching, looking around, or any other body language, speech or facial cues that give away people who are lying.

It isn’t easy to do. If you think it is, try it sometime. Videotape yourself trying to deliver a few complete lies to a small test group of people as an experiment. You will see how difficult it is. Romney had to do this in front of one of the largest national television audiences in history over a period of 90 minutes and not give himself away at all. Actually, Romney did flinch once during a question about medical coverage. Other than that, he delivered a lie every 90 seconds as smoothly as most people would tell another person the correct time.

I know the Romney campaign and every other Republican who sees this video is going to say no, what that Steve Leser guy is saying is not true, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. But all you have to do is look at the debate; what did Romney do, what did he say.

In hindsight his plan is pretty obvious. Deny the plan he had been touting for over 18 months, give no specific plan for President Obama to address, lie about anything that could be damaging and deliver those lies authoritatively as if they were the truest things Mitt ever heard or said.

That’s what he did and it’s obvious that this is what he practiced.

It’s not like this is out of character with Mitt Romney. Every single time he has run for office, he has had Republican opponents for the nomination and ultimately Democratic challengers note how he flip flops on the issues all the time, is dishonest, and how there seem to be multiple Mitt Romneys and you never know on a given day which one you are going to meet.

You don’t have to take my word for it. A Youtube search on Romney flip flops yields over 2000 video results; many of these videos were submitted by supporters of the campaigns of various Republican challengers.

Add Rick Perry to the Romney Flip Flop Youtube search and you see Texas Governor Rick Perry repeat what I just said about multiple Mitt Romneys almost verbatim.

So lying and saying a particular plan wasn’t his is completely within the realm of Mitt Romney’s past behavior. Now, all of this would be fine if what Romney participated in was a comedy skit like on Saturday Night Live, or the Colbert Report or The Daily Show. But this wasn’t comedy. This was serious. This was one of the three chances the American people get every four years to see the two major parties’ presidential candidates’ debate each other’s proposals.

To make it worse is that each debate has a specific theme. There will not be another Presidential debate this year where the main theme is domestic policy. This was the only shot at this, and Mitt Romney stole the opportunity for the people of this country to get an honest look and distinction between his economic proposals and President Obama’s. In order to win, in order to get a few percentage points’ different in the race, this is what Mitt Romney and his campaign practiced for five months; wholesale lying and denying the American people an opportunity to hear his plan and contrast it with President Obama’s.

If you think about it, if this is the best they could do with five months of time to prepare, what does that say about the confidence they have in their ability to convince the American people of any plan they would intend to put forth? It says that they not only had no confidence, they were pretty sure that if they put a plan out there and tried to defend it during the debate, that they would lose the debate.

Ironic, isn’t it? In trying to use deception to appear better and stronger than they were, the Romney and his campaign demonstrated his weakness convincingly.

So if you think this was wrong of Mitt Romney to do, and I don’t think there is anyone on this planet who would appreciate being lied to and manipulated this way, share this video with everyone you know. Tell people what Mitt Romney did. No one who did this should lead anything or have any major responsibility given to them. I don’t care what party they are in or what office to which they aspire.

What Mitt Romney did is unacceptable. Let people know about it.