For all President Obama's rhetorical gifts -- and despite the fact that he was widely viewed as the winner of all three presidential debates in 2008 -- Democrats appear to be engaged in a campaign of expectation-managing ahead of the upcoming matchups between Obama and Mitt Romney. Indeed, as the president's press team to his debate prep partern John Kerry would have it, Romney is a veritable reincarnation of one of history's greatest debaters, Abraham Lincoln himself.
Here's John Kerry opining on Romney's "mad skillz" at the podium (h/t Erika Johnsen):
Oh, please. Please, please, please. Give me 20 breaks, not just one. Mitt Romney debated against Ted Kennedy back in the ’90s. He debated one-on-one when he ran for governor. He probably turned his campaign around when he ran for governor and won the governorship because of what happened in that debate.
And listen to the Republicans, don’t listen to me, because nobody’s — I’m obviously partisan. But just this morning on “Morning Joe,” Newt Gingrich, who debated him many, many times, said that he got clobbered by him, that Mitt Romney, when he had to, down in Florida, literally turned things around; everybody saw that and knows that. …
So the fact is that Mitt Romney is a very good debater. He’s done a very good job at it. He’s practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced, and he’s been flying around with, you know, the person playing Obama on his airplane every minute. He’s gone away and done five debates in 48 hours up in New Hampshire or Vermont or somewhere. …
The president, on the other hand, has to be president every day. Just gave two speeches — I thought terrific speeches — in New York. He has been at the White House and dealing with a whole series of issues, Middle East and otherwise.
Playing up Romney's past experience, while shrugging off concerns of Obama's unprepardness, has become recurring theme in recent days as the first debate, scheduled for October 3, nears. Obama's traveling press secretary Jen Psaki gave a ludicrous answer when asked about what will happen in the matchup:
On Air Force One today, traveling press secretary Jen Psaki was asked by reporters what the worst thing that could happen to him on Wednesday night.
"Well, he could fall off the stage," she replied of the president.
"The president will have some time to prepare and he's been doing some studying, but it is certainly less than we have anticipated because of events in the Middle East, because of his busy travel schedule — because of just the constraints of governing," she added. "So it is less than we originally planned." Psaki lamented the president's "loquaciousness" and argued that Romney is the most prepared debater in presidential debate history — on account of his preparation sessions going back to May.
"Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has been preparing earlier and with more focus than any presidential candidate in modern history," she said. "Not John F. Kennedy. Not President Bill Clinton. Not President George Bush. Not Ronald Reagan has prepared as much as he has. So there's no question that he will have a lead on how prepared he is."
It's long been known that Team Obama is concerned about their boss' tendency to ramble, but this is getting out of hand. Obama has a reputation for being a masterful orator, and the idea that he's outmatched by this wide of a margin is laughable. It reads more like they're concerned about a potential bump in the polls if Romney debates well, and are downplaying a poor performance from the president with the ol' "he's been running the free world" excuse.