Martin Bashir | September 28, 2012
>> let's get right to our panel now. we're joined by democratic strategist julian epstein, michelle cottle, washington correspondent for "newsweek" and the daily beast , and michael krouly who is "time's" washington bureau sheaf. allow me to read to you if i may part of a statement from beth myers. she says the president is a universally acclaimed public speaker. it's clear he will use his ample rhetorical gifts and debating experience to one end, attacking mitt romney . i have to say, julian , that sounds suspiciously flattering to me. ten minutes ago they were saying the president apologizes to terrorists, can't read a balance sheet, and wouldn't know gdp from his acl. now he's the finest orator since winston churchill .
>> this is a really time-worn tactic to lower the expectations before the debate so that romney can claim that he did halfway decent against obama .
>> julian , you sound bored even saying the sentence, a time-worn --
>> i think the campaign is starting to get boring as, because, as i say, the republicans just won't bring the "a" game. it fits into the larger narrative of incompetence on the part of the romney campaign. they're unable by everybody's reckoning to run a good campaign. romney is unable to utter anything of great significance when it comes to campaign. and now they're saying he's not ready for the grand stage when it comes to competing against obama . i mean, i have seen more competence in nfl replacement refs than i do in this campaign.
>> we're looking at two individuals behind mr. romney and they look extremely bored. michael , senator john kerry is playing the president's sparring partner. the role of mitt romney , as he prepares for next week's debate. andrea mitchell asked him earlier about that memo from beth mye. rs. here is what mr. kerry had to say.
>> please, please, please, give me 20 breaks, not just one. the fact is that mitt romney is a very good debater. he's practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced. this is the biggest deal in the world to him.
>> he's right, isn't he? because mr. romney obviously has a lot more time to devote to debate practice than the president does and i expect it could be edadvantageous for mr. romney .
>> well, i guess the other thing is romney has debated how many primary debates? about 20? it was ludicrous. so he's had a lot of time --
>> to be fair, michael , he wasn't debating figures of einstein intelligence.
>> that's right. and a couple other differences, a one-on-one debate is very different than that clown car of, you know, 12 people coming out on the stage and the other is that in those primary debates, you know, people were really dueling to say that the harshest, toughest thing about president obama to really denounce him. i think you had to be more respectful in a one-on-one debate and you also have a different audience. it's not kind of a conservative republican audience. so he will be in a different environment. but, you know, that said, i think the pressure is really on romney , the stakes are higher, and so i think that -- i don't know about expectations for how he's going to perform. i just know i would rather be obama because obama has a lead, status quo. romney has to go in there feeling like he has to land some punches. obama just has to get out alive.
>> michelle , in your latest article for the daily beast , you say that the stakes could not be higher as mike was saying for mr. romney . in fact, you say that unless mr. romney hits it out of the park on wednesday, his dreams of sitting in the oval office could be, i'm quoting you, deader than disco. couldn't he come back in week two, much as people like me who love nothing more than hearing the ojs or the temptations even today.
>> it's not mee who thinks that denver is a do or die situation. we're talking about republicans who have been out there saying he really has to nail this. people have been waiting for him to have his break-through moment. there are very few opportunities going forward. republican donors and republican -- other elected officials are getting very nervous, and if he doesn't make a great showing in denver, it's going to be trouble for him, and the problem is his team has raised expectations really high. beth my esmth rs memo is a complete turn around from before when they were saying we're going to win, we're ready, five mock debates in two days, we're just practicing go, go, go, go, go. they have helped raise expectations so high that i'm not sure how he actually lives up to those.
>> julian , would it be a miracle if romney ge debate without insulting half the population or tripping over so many of the things that he said in this campaign which are in direct contradiction to things that he believed 15 minutes prior to?
>> that's right. the best attack ad on romney is mitt romney . to pick up on michael and michelle 's point, what is romney going to come with in the campaign to have a good showing? he can't talk about taxes with tacks being the lowest they have been in 50 years. he can't talk about medicaid and medicare because their policies are unpopular. he can't talk about foreign policy , he doesn't have anything. the only thing he can argue is that obama has not been a good steward of the economy, but as we know, obama has a very good answer to that. and that's on offense. then you think about what he has to do on defense. he's going to be on the defense on the 47%. he's going to be on defense on his tax question. i mean, this is a guy who doesn't have very much to work with at this point. so it's hard for me to see, even if he doesn't make a major gaffe, which he does on a weekly basis, even if he doesn't, what ammunition does he have to actually have a good showing?
>> i'm told there are examples of elections turning on debates, president bush for example started gaining on al gore when they faced off in 2000 . is it usually the case that debates are quite the kind of game-changer that everybody thinks this one has to be for romney to do anything successfully in november?
>> no, it's not. the historical data shows that i think we sort of exaggerate the role of debates. i would tip my hat to the washington monthly that has a nice article that goes through some of the political science and polling on this. it says they have a marginal impact. one notable exception was the 2000 debates between bush and gore where it appears gore plolost two or three points after those debates. we remember how close it was, it could be significant. this race may very well be decided by a handful of points. two or three-point difference could be very consequential, but historically speaking the debates have not been that significant. by the way, i would make one other point, i think john kerry has been a good prep opponent for obama because i actually think that romney has a problem on stages in these situations similar toi kerry's which is his diction is weird. he doesn't talk like an ordinary person. i think that's a prub for him. i think it's an advantage for obama and i think debating someone like john kerry who has this sort of tortured stener toian way of talking will get him in the right groove.
>> michelle s that because what romney is doing when he's debating publicly is actually hiding his genuine personality and trying to perform as someone else ?
>> well, i don't know that he's hiding a genuine personality. we're not entirely clear what his genuine personality but he also just doesn't have a central message. when you are debating it is kind of what every debate expert will tell you is you need a central, clear message . you don't need to approach it like a game of jeopardy. you don't need to come out with too much kind of data even. you need to have something that you can convey very easily and clearly, and it is not clear what mitt romney is trying to convey in any of these situations.
>> well, don't worry, he's only been running for six years. michelle cottle, julian ep seen and michael crowley thank you on the possible last days of disco. our thanks to all of you.