Why does everyone keep saying Mitt Romney is better in debates than Barack Obama? What criteria are they using, exactly? As far as I can tell, Mitt Romney has in fact done a lot of debating. Then again, running for President for nearly a decade will give you that opportunity. But outside of the last two Presidential elections, he’s also run for office a couple more times, and if my math is correct, he’s only held one elected office. He didn’t even seek re-election for that position either.
So it would kind of stand to reason that since he’s failed in every other election attempt so far, that he’s probably not fared well enough in any of the debates, right? Wouldn’t you imagine that someone who was a master debater (goddamn I love when I can use that term with a straight face) would have won more elections than he’s lost? In 1994 he lost his Senatorial campaign to perennial juggernaut Ted Kennedy. Something tells me those debates were a hoot, and clearly Mitt’s skills at the podium weren’t enough in that election. Then in 2008 he ran for his party’s nomination against John McCain and a cavalcade of Republican contenders. He lost those primaries big.
Now flash-forward to 2011 at the start of the primaries for the election this year. Yes, you could say that his debate performances this year were far better than those of any other candidate up there. But before Mitt gets full of himself, stop and think who he was up against. Michele Bachmann, the woman who said out loud, on camera, in front of millions of viewers that she knew for a fact that the HPV vaccine caused mental retardation in a girl who got the shot. Doctors everywhere called “bullshit” on her, after they finished laughing their balls off and citing actual scientific data that debunked Bachmann’s claims. Then there was Newt “let’s colonize the Moon” Gingrich. Look, I’m all for space travel, but I think even in terms of space exploration there are some for more important and pressing projects NASA could take on before turning the Moon into a fucking timeshare.
Then there was Herman “999” Cain, Governor Rick “I Can’t Remember The Third One” Perry, and Ron “Get Off My Lawn!” Paul. To be fair to Paul though, the RNC did their best to keep him marginalized this entire campaign, so in what little time he did get at the debates, he clearly outshone the Mitt-bot. So of course Mitt cleaned all those other people’s clocks. But squawking about beating up Herman Cain in a debate is like bragging that you beat George W. Bush on “Jeopardy.” After all, despite playing in the Pee-Wee League, he still managed to look like an aloof and out of touch rich guy when he tried to make a bet for ten grand with Rick Perry. What I’m saying is that Mitt didn’t win the primary debates so much as his opponents just out-dumbassed him.
Let’s also not forget one very important thing as well: Mitt has never been tested on the biggest debate stage of them all. There is no bigger or more important debate any candidate can have than the actual Presidential debates. Sure, the national spotlight was on him during both the ’08 and ’12 primaries, but now he’s racing for pinks. The debates that start his week or for all the marbles. In the wake of the American embassy attack in Libya, and just after the “47%” video broke, one thing became clear: high-pressure situations are not Mitt Romney’s forte.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s something that Mitt’s been hiding up his sleeve for the last nearly twenty years. But the evidence that I see before me is that he’s a politician who has gotten more lucky than he has won elections on his merit. He is undoubtedly very good at what he does in the private sector. But the Presidency isn’t about harvesting companies for profit. It’s not about making sure the “job creators” get to keep their tax breaks. It’s about getting the country all the way back on its feet. And when Bill Kristol, a figurehead in his own party, says that Obama has managed to put the country back on the right path after Bush II fouled everything up, the narrative of Obama’s failed economic record is not going to play on this stage.
The bottom line is this: it’s foolish to declare anyone a winner of either the debates or the election at this point. But it’s also not a foregone conclusion that Mitt will wipe the floor with Obama in this first debate. The truth is that Obama does have more experience debating someone on national TV while competing to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years. He’s also a highly likable candidate, which Romney most certainly is not. At best this first debate on domestic policy on Wednesday is a tossup, and I’m starting to think Obama may just shock the world and swing a mighty big bat at the plate.
It’s about to get really fun, but then again any time Mitt Romney opens his mouth, comedy ensues.