Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is this what happened last night?

A lot of people I've talked to were surprised by Romney's statements last night, and how much they a) coincided with Obama's, and b) how much they differed from his previous positions. We already know that Romney has no problem with changing his position on any issue to suit the political climate of the day (indeed, the minute if he must). But last night was something altogether different. How? The entire debate seemed to be one long "I agree" from Romney over the administration's policies, after months and months of criticism. He didn't touch on Libya, Syria, Iran, or any of the other hot-button issues that he has criticized Obama for in the past. Why?

Here's the theory that I've come up with. It may not be valid, but it seems to fit his performance. Romney deliberately sided with the POTUS on every major issue as much as he could. That was his strategy. It might seem ridiculous, but consider the following points.

First of all, by doing this, Romney prevented a major blowout win by Obama. Sure, he himself did not "win," but seeing as how foreign policy is Romney's weakest area, the chances of him outdoing the POTUS were minimal to begin with. Romney effectively turned Obama's biggest debate night into a draw, denying his opponent a clear-cut victory and the boost in the polls that likely would have brought. Of course, Obama still looked great, but it was not a shut-out night by any stretch of the imagination.

Secondly, it prevented criticism from Romney's adversaries. How? Since Romney basically agreed with the President on everything, any criticism made against Romney would have been made against Obama, too. The only attack that left for his detractors was to say that he was inconsistent with his record. Unfortunately, that is a line that has been used since day one with Romney (see the link above) and it doesn't seem to work well at convincing voters.

Thirdly, it meant that Romney didn't have to stick his neck out with a new plan, and thus needed no specifics. He argued a bit with the POTUS on the semantics of his policies, and that was all. He produced nothing original, and therefore did not have to claim any ideas from that night.

If this was the intention of the Romney camp, it was well done. If not, it's a happy coincidence. It strikes me, though, that this is the kind of strategy that would work well at this point in the cycle. No new information is good for Romney, since he's not running on a campaign of his own promises anyway. And in an area where he has no experience, it would have been a last-minute disaster for him to go out on a limb with a fresh approach to American foreign policy only to have it fly in his face. And Romney is still riding the support from the first debate. He would have been stupid to risk that support on a bad performance just before the election.

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