NOW with Alex Wagner | October 16, 2012
>>> i don't know about the endorsement of the mass citizens for life. i didn't seek it or --
>> but you accepted it.
>> i didn't write them a letter and say thank you very much --
>> your spokesperson said you accepted their endorsement.
>> i can tell you again i did not in any way acknowledge their endorsement nor do i --
>> you accepted it.
>> when you say i accept the it. in what way.
>> ask your campaign spokesman.
>> i'm here and i can tell you i do not take the position of a pro life candidate. i'm in favor of preserving and protecting a woman's right to choose and your effort to continue to try to create fear and deception here is unbecoming.
>> that was a testy and zesty mitt romney being challenged on abortion during a 2012 debate from massachusetts governor -- that performance showcasing his combative side changed the trajectory of the race. romneys's deficit and opinion polls to a win on election day . could the narrative play out the same way this year? joining us now from boston is shannon o'brien, as the 2002 democratic nominee for massachusetts governor she is someone who knows just a little bit about mitt and joining us on set in new york is ryan groom, washington bureau chief for the "the huffington post ." shannon i would like to go to you first on this. an interesting exchange to watch. i want to know what you of the town hall debate in how that might affect mitt romney going into the debate tonight? the format of being with the public, questions being asked of him by members of, you know, by american voters as opposed to moderators and in your experience debating with him does that get into mitt's head?
>> i think it actually favors him. given what we've seen in this campaign and given what we've seen in past debates. he's a fabulous fabricator and i think when you see that from that exchange he's pointing at me, looking at me and basically i look bad because i'm saying you're not telling the truth, i was right, but in the middle of the debate it's hard to pin someone down who is so convincingly not telling the truth. we've seen so many etch a sketch moments in this campaign. he's getting good at it. i think this format unless candy crowley as she says she may interject herself a little bit, i think it perhaps favors mitt romney because if he's going to consistently not tell the truth about his positions it becomes more difficult for president obama to point out those inconsistenc inconsistencies.
>> i will say and i want to bring in ryan here, when romney 's gotten mad in debates this cycle which is to say during the primary i didn't think it played well for him. came across as somewhat sort of overly aggressive and stilted and very frustrated. and that debate from 2002 , the anger is a little more fluid. he's a little better at being angry and indigent in even though she's saying had he's a firmly pro choice candidate. do you think the same thing as far as what shannon is saying about this being a better format for romney ?
>> i think so. romney has learned the difference between stern which works for him and being angry which as you said didn't. there's something different, though, between this round of debates and what he had with shannon in 2002 . in '02, shannon sought out much more the aggressor and played rope a dope and he came back hard at the end. obama has started out weak and romney has started out the aggressor. i'm curious if you think that plays to obama 's advantage a little bit, since romney won't be coming off the mat?
>> shannon , the president sort of not -- is not playing possum up on the ropes how does that affect the dynamic had he is not the initial aggressor?
>> i think if he has a pulse it's going to be an improvement. that's the thing. he has no place else to go but up. the fact is i think it's going to be difficult because, you know, unlike -- i thought martha raddtz did a terrific job moderating the last debate but here -- and correct me if i'm wrong i'm not sure if they have the follow-up and i think the one on one exchanges depending on how candy crowley does moderate this, the one on one exchanges become a little bit more of a ballet for obama even if he is the aggressor. i think it dpinepends on how the debate is moderated tonight.
>> you and i were talking about the inns and outs of the town hall debate and the questions asked by members of the audience, that there's not a lot of room necessarily, we don't know how candy crowley will play it, but for follow up and back and forth and pressing on the issue could give romney a free pass. i would offer to you, what about, though, the, you know, the guy that comes up that is someone that hasn't paid income taxes, that is a working-class american, says how can you say this about me and puts a human face on some of the remarks mitt romney has made in this campaign psych sxhl.
>> i think for -- from the president's standpoint he has to hope that somebody asks that or a question that gets close enough to it, right. you can't pivot from what would you do to save american schools i would do a lot of things but let me tell you about what a jerk mitt romney is. it doesn't work. some ways one of the big risks for the president tonight is that the questions are so softbally, that he never really has a chance to go in and raise the 47% or the tax returns or the tax rate that romney pays, all these things the democrats are hungry to see him talk about.
>> you have to think he is going to have at least an arsenal of a couple arrows he will be sure to throw. shannon , you are familiar with the governor's record while he was in office and you've done -- the great lift of reminding us just what kind of governor mitt romney was. and some interesting tidbits, "the new york times" reports he spent 417 days out of state during his four-year term. you've talked about the elevator he had installed so he wouldn't have to deal with the rest of the massachusetts legislature . you know, tell us more about that and do you think that's the stuff that resonates with ordinary americans trying to determine who mitt romney actually is sp.
>> i think the bipartisan argument is harder to make right now. tonight, the one thing that has to happen in a debate of this format, is you have to connect with first of all the person that's asking the question and that actually takes time to kind of focus in and answer the question and then to broaden it out to the broader arguments or issues that you want to address. so, i think that it may be difficult to talk about that bipartisan stuff. that's almost a one liner in this debate. i think the most important is the big broad issues, how you connect with the individual people in that room and then how you take it to the rest of the country.
>> thank you to shannon o'brien for joining us. always great to hear about your experiences with the man named mitt. thanks for your time. after the break it is a question everyone will be asking, during the great debate or will it? pepperoni? or sausage? we will wax pizza politics