Mitchell Reports | October 05, 2012
>>> mitt romney 's step back from some core conservative values has been stumping some on the trail because it has worked in his favor. joining me now, msnbc's senior political analyst mark halperin and " usa today " washington bureau chief susan page and columnist for "the washington post " uveen robinson. welcome all. first to mark halperin , the move to the center there's no complaint from conservatives, is it, so eager to defeat president obama they say anything that works is okay with them?
>> well, romney has had as you know a troubled relationship with certain elements of the right, even after he picked paul ryan there was a brief honeymoon period there, people held their tongue for a while but the criticism started again. i think certainly the conventional wisdom amongst the chattering class now the debate performance will quiet critics on the right and get away with saying things moving to the center. the two things, one, it's being overstated how much he's changing positions or even rhetoric from some of the things he's previously said for good or ill but i don't see the cosmic switch to the center as much as others do and the other thing, if he has a bad debate in two weeks i'm not sure the right will be silenced through election day . he has a tentative hold there just as he does on the new romney theme that is helping him right now.
>> on one thing he certainly has changed and that's the 47%, susan page .
>> amazing. maybe this is why president obama didn't raise it at the debate, because they -- i don't know this, possibly he would clearly have some kind of a response. you would give it the greatest possible play by asking about it in the debate and so they avoided doing that. do you think that's true.
>> i really don't. i can't figure it out. i mean what -- i was told they were so concerned that he not appear angry and mean and that he didn't want to be too aggressive, so sort of playing this prevent defense deal, and that they were doing enough damage to mitt romney eugene on 47% in their paid advertisements.
>> however does playing prevent defense work.
>> it doesn't ever work. you should play your regular defense and go after the quarterback. and that's what the president didn't do. i think that was a flawed strategy if that was a strategy, which we've also heard. and two, you got to question the preparation. i mean, because just seemed to be moment after moment, where romney left an opening that obama never went for. contradiction, you know, directly contradicting something he said earlier. never went for it.
>> and mark halperin , what congresswoman deget said yesterday when i was interviewing her in colorado, why did he not bring up the women's issues. tell me that.
>> i mean, i think there's a range of things where the president's campaign surrogates and advertising and messaging and sometimes the president himself certainly the vice president have been strong where the president just didn't go there in the debate. i can't explain that except it seems like both david axelrod on the record and based on my conversations and the president's performance, it seemed like he just wanted to take what was presented whatever topic either jim herrer or governor romney brought up that's where the president was going to play defense and push back. he did not try to turn anything. i can't really explain why he didn't but it certainly didn't serve him well. there's a reason they've driven women's issue and the 47% and done it feb tifkly, why he thought the debate wasn't the place to drive those, i do not know.
>> david brooks column in "the new york times" says that on wednesday night romney finally emerged from the fog, broke with the stereotypes of his party and long last began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself. susan?
>> 34 days before the election. talk about waiting until the last minute to do so. you know, one of the things he did, mark made the point that maybe the move to the center wasn't quite as stark as some people are portraying it. wasn't this the tonal change we thought we would see last spring when he clenched --
>> where was the pivot.
>> we kept waiting for which did not come until the first debate and now, of course, time very late, maybe he can build on this momentum. i know that they hope he can.
>> andrea --
>> yes, go ahead, mark.
>> i agree there's tonal shift. i'm saying the issue positions i don't think are changed starkly and keep in mind what did he do yesterday besides rally in virginia? went to a cpac meeting in colorado, got the nra endorsement and interview with sean hannity in fox. if there's a pivot to the center as not unidirectional.
>> also on fox that he said that he was completely wrong about the 47%, so he has taken that opportunity to now not only say it was ineloquent and didn't phrase it right but didn't mean any of it.
>> i have to assume he was prepared to do that at the debate and so i actually kind of --
>> question that was not asked.
>> maybe they wanted to stay away from that and not give him the opportunity before 67 million people to take it back. let him take it back in a smaller audience. i thought -- i actually thought the most important thing for romney was the -- was the humor and the fact that he didn't come across as being mean and --
>> or robotic.
>> or robotic, right. well, now, maybe slightly robotic, but not -- but not the certain anger and edge that he's gotten in --
>> like with the rick perry debates.
>> exactly. other debates. that has helped the obama administration and the obama campaign define him and i think he pushed back against that with the humor.
>> let me look forward and ask you, mark halperin , what do you anticipate coming up now? next week we've got the two vice presidents -- the vice president and his challenger paul ryan there and how about the town hall format for barack obama ? the conventional wisdom has been because everybody has bill clinton in their mind that the democrat, president obama , will do better in the town hall relating and empathizing and showing he connects to people. i'm not so sure about this president.
>> well, i'm not so sure, although both of them will be -- i think the strongest mitt romney has been in my experience as a presidential candidate on the debate the other night was the events he did in both cycles last campaign in 2008 and this one, his so-called ask mitt anything events where he did take questions from people. he showed humor and the kind of fluidness and personality that he showed in the depate ba in those events and people that think this format clearly favors the president i don't think are right.
>> but you know, one advantage that mitt romney won't have, barack obama will not be unprepared for the second debate the way he was for the first one. he's a competitive guy, we know he wants to win this election, he's smart. i have to believe he is going to focus and prepare in a way he did not the first time around.
>> and frankly a low bar for the president next time because he just has to be aggressive, right? that's what he wasn't in this debate. i think he can easily meet or exceed expectations just by, you know, i don't know, five-hour energy or something before he goes out there.
>> thank you very much. it's great to see you, eugene, susan, mark halperin , thank you,