Political Animal


October 03, 2012 8:42 PM Pre-Debate Crankiness

By Ed Kilgore

According to BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins, Mitt Romney got “virtually no sleep” on Monday night thanks to freight trains that kept barreling past his hotel. I can relate. Was going to take a good, solid, pre-debate nap, but got a phone call. So be forewarned: I’m live-blogging crankily.

I do wonder what kind of sleep Jim Lehrer’s been getting. It should be obvious that in this format he’s going to have enormous impact on the debate. Does he ask probing, substantive questions (my ultimate fantasy would be one asking Romney exactly how interestate health insurance sales would work)? Or does he offer bland questions and force the candidates to go deeper or just slide along?

Paul Waldman does raise a very good question that could be pivotal: Will Mitt be able to adjust to the very different dynamics of a general election debate after all those months of primary debates when everyone took turns bashing an absent Obama and the crowds hooted for red meat? To a much greater degree than Obama, he’ll have to be thinking constantly about multiple audiences: the restive conservative base that wants him to go large and go wild; the low-information voters who know little about his background; the true swing voters who have a generally dim impression of him; and then, of course, the President of the United States, who’ll be standing right next to him and will surely respond if Mitt ascribes polices or intentions to him that aren’t accurate.

I usually find these affairs to be excruciating, and often yell or even claw at the screen. But I’ll try to keep my bearings and give you quick reactions to what we are all seeing on the tube.

Back just before the lights go on.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Jeff In Ohio on October 03, 2012 8:49 PM:

    Your always cranky, embrace your inner Camus and get over it.

  • Joe Friday on October 03, 2012 8:53 PM:

    Of course all politicians veer from the questions they're asked, but I predict Willard will repeatedly not answer the question he is asked and instead launch some attack against Obama. If he merely attempts to fudge the answer to the question asked, he's gonna lose big.

  • SadOldVet on October 03, 2012 9:12 PM:

    Debate has started. This is not bullshit! Romney is already lying and Obama is talking like a fucking repuke (calling for corporate tax cuts).

  • Ben on October 03, 2012 9:23 PM:

    What???? Mitt is now debating AGAINST his own tax plan.

  • Kris on October 03, 2012 9:26 PM:

    Romney is looking a lot less wooden than previously, and Obama is sticking too closely to the script and repeating the same points. Romney is lying about almost everything so far, but I think the spin might call this a win for him. Lehrer is doing horribly as a moderator. This is not starting out well.

  • Old Uncle Dave on October 03, 2012 9:28 PM:

    Aha! Romney shook the etch-a-sketch just before the debate started.

  • Rose on October 03, 2012 9:31 PM:

    Wow, worst start to a debate, ever! Jim Lehrer sucks as a moderator, and even though I WILL vote for Pres. Obama, the candidates suck, too! Yikes! Hope the Pres gets better.

  • Ben on October 03, 2012 9:31 PM:

    I don't think the president expected Mitt to change his entire platform like that. It seems to have caught him off guard. Why wouldn't it? The president said it best though: "He's been running on this for 18 months, and now he says, 'Never mind.'"

  • Hue and Cry on October 03, 2012 9:48 PM:

    Romney has repetitive eye blinking which is evidence of being strained and unnerved *and* displays that imperious nature comes out when he interrupts--I think it is the third time he broke in and interrupted.
    Like he's at a staff meeting at Bain.
    He's all eyebrows on my television while blinking.
    Earlier when they had a dual screen he really seemed jumpy with goofy smiling jotting stuff down. I changed the channel briefly.
    Romney's 'bring down rates' plan doesn't mean he'd lower taxes. This already was shown. And now he is going in to that stuff, i.e., I like PBS, I like Big Bird. And he doesn't like Simpson-Bowles, "he has his own plan." Romney lost me on that announcement--that is all we ever hear. He has a plan that he won't detail. Ever.

    President Obama is calm and articulate, a commanding presence, instructional like Bill Clinton as he speaks. His expressions and demeanor show how competent he would be with the 3 a.m. phone call.
    And in a classier way the president says let me finish this point. Romney is almost stuttering at 9:38.
    Romney is obsessed with low taxes, not with creating any jobs. Wow--billionaire really wants to hang on to his and Trump's money.
    Romney wants to give block grants to states for Medicare and look how well that went with Wisconsin's tea partier governor. The poor really will be foraging in the woods for food if Romney is elected.
    OK--Romney absolutely plans to change Medicare. Oh and there is the lie he always tells about the 716 billion number. Lies are starting big time. He really sounds rehearsed here but his stressed out eyes tell it all.
    Ah, my dear heart: the president is explaining how Romney wants to voucherize Medicare. Great job. Hope lots of seniors are listening. President Obama is Bill Clinton in explaining what Romney wants to do to Medicare.