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October 01, 2012

Romney's Debate Plan: Zingers?

I don't know about this -- I can't say it's a bad idea. I also can't say it's a good one. It will depend on actual execution. As I don't know the zingers, I just can't say much of anything.

But I will anyway, after the quote.

Mr. Obama’s team records his practices to sharpen his responses so that they connect on a more visceral level with the television audience. One of Mr. Romney’s aides calculated his words-per-minute rate in the primary campaign debates to break him of the habit of feeling that he needs to rattle off the most statistics.

Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.

So here's what I think happened. I think Romney imposed his own idea of what a Convention should be about on the RNC. I think his team gave the order that speeches were to be substantive and serious, but also seeking a human connection by telling stories about life history and grandparent coal miners.

Almost the entire convention was like that. Only the major speakers got to pop off any kind of fireworks -- and the guy most expected to be a Human Fireworks Show, Chris Christie, instead turned in a sober call for personal responsibility in a time of national crisis. (Mike Huckabee got a bunch in, and Condi Rice a couple, and Paul Ryan got in not quite zingers but deadly criticisms.)

I noted at the time the convention was lacking zingers. Now, zingers may be dumb, they may be cheap, but you miss them when they're not there. Although we'd all like to pretend we are nothing but Patriots Seeking Substance, we have to admit that there is a real entertainment aspect to these things -- or there should be, at least.

Now, I think the time for the most zingers is the Convention, but that's water under the bridge now.

Can Romney gain some appeal, and reduce Obama's, by some funny, but cutting, lines?

I will say that it is the zingers that most people remember, isn't it?

Romney, though, is not a natural-seeming public speaker. If this were Christie or Ryan, I'd say zing away. My problem is that I'm not sure Romney can manage to be funny and cutting and likable and serious all at once. I do not knock the guy for not being a great, naturally charismatic presence -- that's a gift from God, and no one can fault a man too much for not being blessed by God.

But I do worry that anything outside Romney's comfort zone of being a diligent, homework-doing, test-acing technocratic wonk will come off false and cloying. Trying too hard.

I noted much earlier in the primaries that "Romney can't get away with anything." Some politicians are teflon coated; gaffes and even falsehoods won't stick to them. They have some kind of charisma or charming self-deprecation that makes it hard to stick them with something.

Well, Romney doesn't have that. Romney can't get away with anything. Everything seems to stick to him.

The media makes sure of this, of course, but I think even without the media, people judge Romney more harshly, because he just seems to be trying to hard. All politicians are trying to convince you to give them something. But Romney seems like he's doing that, whereas other politicians -- who are doing the same damn thing -- do not.

So I'm not against the zingers per se. But I do think this is outside Romney's metier, and I'm worried he even struggles to be authentic when he's authentically being himself.

I guess I'm saying: I sure hope his aides are not bullshitting him and telling him "You nailed that, sounded perfectly natural and charming" if his zingers aren't actually working.

Oh: I do love when Romney uses sort of old-fashioned country type sarcasm like "Bless his heart" and "Isn't that remarkable?" The last one deployed like so: "This is a president who came into office claiming he would cut the deficit in half, fix the economy in three years, and even lower the oceans. And now, as his second term approaches, he tells us he can't change Washington from the inside. Isn't that remarkable?"

I love when he does that.

That seems (from what I've seen so far) his best sort of zinger.



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posted by Ace at 04:03 PM

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