NOW with Alex Wagner | October 04, 2012
>>> but don't forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years' worth of breaks into solar and wind, to solyndra, fisker, testla i have a friend who says you don't just pick winners and losers you pick losers. i apologize, mr. president. i use that term with all respect.
>> i like it.
>> good. okay, good. so i'll get rid of that.
>> several points last night, president obama 's strategy seemed to be grin and bear it. smiling as governor romney cut into his record. asked why the president wasn't more aggressive, why no mention of romney 's infamous 47% comments, maryland governor martin o'malley said he's up by a decent margin so he took a do no harm approach to his campaign.
>> joining the panel now, ankh somewhere managing editor of dan rather reports on access tv , the legendary dan rather . great to have you on the program mr. rather. as a seasoned newsman what you make of the president's performance last night.
>> very curious. very puzzling. let's state it for what it is, he got his clock cleaned new york other way to put it. he came in with the pro football players call prevent defense , in basketball it's four corners, fight the clock, pass the ball. and it didn't work. what puzzled me the most is he had opening after opening to dispute what the governor was saying, compared to what he said before, didn't take any of the openings. i'm really puzzled by his performance. he seemed aloof. he'd rather be in a dentist chair than where he was and that translates to body language and facial expressions. i just don't -- can't say what happened to him. all credit to governor romney . got to give him credit. he prepared well. he's in command of what he had. now, question is, does it make a difference? my guess is that it may make some difference. the historical record shows, particularly with first debates when there's more than one, the challenger does well, gets a bump up in a point and a half, two points in the polls. i think this time it may be different. i'll say this, i'm not saying that barack obama 's going to lose. but if he loses, we'll look back on last night as the night the tide turned.
>> governor rendell , you've been very animated about your thoughts on the president's performance last night. you know, to mr. rather's point, no mention of bain, no mention of offshore tax havens , no mention of the 47%. one point romney even -- he even tees up the phrase, he says, look, where you put your money is very reflective of the kind of person you are, and president obama just didn't even -- didn't take it up. why -- the do no harm approach, that is what it is.
>> exactly right. this wasn't an accident. first of all, to go back to what hugo said before, if you're an incumbent running for re-election, you've got to feel proud of what you did under tough circumstances. there was none of that pride, there was none of that passion. we did this, we did that, you know? there's been 31 straight months of job creation , you know? the american people , we've got increasing pell grants so a million more kids can go to school, none of that fire and passion. two they clearly adopted a strategy they weren't going to punch back, the nice guy strategy, four corners strategy. i preet, terepeat, teams in basketball and football, that stall away the game, lose their leads.
>> can't play four corners anymore in basketball.
>> shot clock .
>> the other word, what you're talking about, is stature. i actually think the president's idea of going in, not getting drawn into a brawl is a good one. but i think he needed to convey the stature of the office. it's the incumbent's advantage, stature of the offense. he's the president. you didn't get that feeling. he looked bored, he looked peeved. and the challenger's basic advantage is they get to make great claim house they would do better, leap the washington monument in a single bound, do all of this stuff. that's what mitt brought. he brought it.
>> it's even more than that.
>> more than stature.
>> more than stature. people want to see a level of passion and they wanted to see the president say, look, we've done good things under difficult circumstances. we brought back the auto industry . we never even heard about the auto bailouts.
>> he's made some of the points on the stump. he's made some of the points on the stump.
>> not going to count it.
>> but not when i million people.
>> he's talked about the 47%, not ad nauseam but multiple times in last two weeks.
>> i think the strategic approach to look presidential creeded a certain kind of optical authority. optics matter, how you look, what you look at, what you look like play a role here and mitt romney , when i said bullying, what i meant by that is that he's, you know, dealing with anger management , which he did with jim lehrer very well.
>> anger management .
>> exactly. obama had 99 problems and mitt was the major one, and the inability to contain him by saying, look, being presidential is like, son, that's theory, let me tell you what the practice is. you're talking about, first of all, you're lying or you're dis disassembling or disingenuous or you're telling a bold face reality here. so you've got to -- i've got to believe this, i go back to this, i know governor rendell , my former governor in pennsylvania, here's the reality, obama doesn't have the latitude that white guys who speak with vigor do. i'm not suggesting he can't have passion. i'm not suggesting his stylistic approach, which he's been noted for as governor rendell indicated all of that fox news weighs on him.
>> let me -- let me talk did.
>> avery good point. he can't get angry but he can get proud.
>> no doubt.
>> given what happened there, you can't blame the referee, jim lehrer , he didn't have his best night. you can't blame matter of anger and race. he lost. he's got to face that.
>> it's not about blaming. it's about accounting for in a way --
>> i want to talk about one moment in particular. and that's the end of the debate, right? everybody knows they're going to have a closing statement . rendell 's head in his hands.
>> glass of the water.
>> this is the president's and mitt romney 's closing remarks. they knew they were going to have to do this. presumably they planned these remarks. this is what they said.
>> you know, four years ago, i said that i'm not a perfect man and i wouldn't be a perfect president, and that's probably a promise governor romney thinks that i've kept. but i'd promise identify every date on behalf of the american people .
>> no question in my mind if the president were re-elected you'll continue to see a middle class squeeze, with incomes going down and prices going up.
>> i want to focus first on the president. it was shocking to me that the sort of closing sentiment is, i'm not a perfect man and some folks say i wouldn't be a perfect man and i wouldn't be a perfect president and that's probably a promise governor romney thinks. what a defeatist sentiment.
>> governor rendell made this early on, i can't believe that's as experienced as president obama didn't do it president obama in closing remarks didn't talk to the people in the living room , everybody knows look at the camera, deliver to people in the living room . president obama 's looking off. mitt romney did it the right way.
>> right way.
>> he looked at the camera, looks you in the eye, tells you what he thinks.
>> he wasn't being nice.
>> the thing that is obama -- i hate to say, the politics of niceness, you're admitting your opponent has legitimate points. . it's not great in an american society where stylistic connection means you're willing to defend your point with a pointed passion but also to argue with the other guy. mitt romney was there saying i'm give nothing quarter. he admitted obama did something halfway right the rest of the time he was condescending. i have five sons, you might as well be the sixth, i'm going to tell you what you're doing wrong. there was no opposition, quite disturbing.
>> governor romney seized moment to speak to independent swing voters in the swing states time after time . you can tell it was practiced, prepared, i know what this debate's. this will be the decisive part of the electorate. each time he spoke to that, those who can still be swayed, as my friend mack murphy says, 46%, 48% of the electorate will vote republican if it's a cement bag with "r" on it, 46%, 48% will vote for a cement bag with a "d" on. you're concentrating on voters who may not have their minds made up. governor romney did a wonderful job of that and president obama did a poor job.
>> it is worth noting, though, that the policies that mitt romney has been embracing thus far have not exactly been independent swing voter -minded policies. we'll talk about that next, just the facts. governor romney scored points for style last night. substance of his remarks was a different story entirely. a full audit of romney 's tax plan just ahead next on