Romney’s Last Stand: Media Warfare on the Campaign Trail

By Michael Baker

The first debate looms large this week, and no one would deny that this is the most crucial moment between now and election day for the Romney Campaign.  With the multi-point deficits that the polls have been showing in swing states and the general feeling of Mitt ain’t like me that the general electorate has been expressing, the debates are Romney’s one big opportunity to get the public on his side.  And Wednesday is the big night; if he can’t do it in the first debate, the others won’t matter.

And to add another twist to what’s already Romney’s most stomach-twisting week yet, yesterday a Romney Campaign adviser was quoted by the New York Times as saying that Mitt’s strategy will be to get under Big O’s skin by taking covert jabs and trying to annoy him.  The idea, they seem to think, is that Mitt will stay as cold as ice, while Obama will be hot blooded.

But does it really make sense that the Romney Campaign would show its hand just a couple days before its last big stand?  No, it does not.  Clearly the Campaign’s are engaging in a form of psychological warfare and using the media as pawns.  I doubt Romney has thought much about how to get under O’s skin, and if he had I doubt his aids would be saying so in the Nation’s most prominent newspaper and second most reliable source of media commentary (second to only this blog).

And that isn’t the only front on which the campaigns are raging their media war.  Both sides have been doing their best to lower expectations for the debate.  This is something that worked well for W in 2000 – everyone thought he’d be so out-matched by Al Gore that the fact that he was able to string a coherent sentence together (well, sometimes…) was enough for him to declare victory.  Romney’s camp has been peddling the idea that O is a master debater, while the Obama crew has been downplaying his renown as a public speaker.

But all of this is sort of a waste of time given that presidential debates always sort of totally completely suck.  I mean, when was the last time you saw a political debate in which the candidates directly answered the questions, let alone said anything of substance?  So as for me, I’ll be watching just for the fashion.  It would make just as much sense for the moderator to ask, “So Governor Romney, who are you wearing?”