October 4, 2012


What Losers Look Like : On Wednesday night, they looked like Democratic strategists and spin doctors. (David Weigel, Oct. 4, 2012, Slate)

This is what losing looks like: five stoic strategists for the Obama campaign camped out in the spin room. They do not deny that Mitt Romney just beat the president on all the points that count in TV debates. How can they, when even the foreign press, heavy in accent and fond of existential questions, keeps asking why the president blew it? In one corner stands David Plouffe, the president's chief strategist, fielding question after question about optics.

"Why wasn't the president more aggressive?" asks a dark-suited man with a Swedish accent.

"The president did exactly what he had to do," says Plouffe. "He talked in very deep specifics about the economy, about jobs, about Medicare. That's why he had a good debate tonight." 

"Would you agree that he was too low-key?" asks a Japanese reporter.

"No!" says Plouffe. "I would not agree with that at all! He did what he had to do. He had a very clear message to the American people." 

Somebody asks Plouffe if tonight was a "decisive" debate. "We don't believe in decisive moments," says the man whose candidate rose to power on the strength of speeches that were sold as collector's item DVDs.

This would sound ridiculous anywhere. In the big dumb swirl of a spin room, where men of clout and class walk around next to popsicle-looking sticks bearing their names, it's positively Dali-esque. This is an atmosphere where a reporter can yell, "Was tonight a game-changer?" at David Axelrod, and nobody will laugh. 

But for the first time in 12 years, Democrats have to take a debate that they lost on optics and convince voters that they won on facts. 

...is that this undercuts the carefully manufactured myth of his intelligence and eloquence.  It's the first moment where everyone sees him for who he is.

Posted by at October 4, 2012 5:31 AM

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