Dan Balz Steals My E-Mail

I’m only kidding about that headline but today’s Dan Balz columnn echos an exact point I made in a private e-mail to a friend 24-hours earlier:  “This coming week may decide the campaign between the next debate, the unraveling story over the Embassy attacks, the refusal to provide security and the deception in the aftermath. Just need to keep Romney from getting in the way of the circular firing squad forming around Obama.”

Here is Dan Balz opening:

Every week after Labor Day is touted as a critical week in presidential politics. The coming week may actually live up to that characterization. During the next eight days, President Obama and Mitt Romney will meet for their final two debates — Tuesday night at Hofstra University on Long Island and the following Monday in Florida. At that point, it should be clear whether the momentum that Romney picked up from the first debate in Denver has stalled or whether he continues to gain ground against the president. In the meantime, the front-page headline in Saturday’s Columbus Dispatch should serve as a warning to Obama’s headquarters in Chicago. It read, “Romney on the rise in Ohio.”

Whistling past the graveyard:

Obama advisers were saying earlier in the past week that they believed the post-Denver Romney surge had stopped. But virtually every recent poll since Denver, here in Ohio and in other battleground states, has shown movement toward the Republican challenger. Obama may still lead in enough states to win reelection, but the margins are no longer comfortable.

Romney surge

On Friday night, a huge crowd filled the town square in nearby Lancaster to greet Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, for a joint appearance after Thursday’s vice-presidential debate…Romney spoke of seeing a “growing crescendo of enthusiasm” around the country. All candidates say that in the final weeks of a campaign, but there is more than a little truth to it in this case. Republicans are energized in ways they weren’t before, still driven more by their anti-Obama feelings but increasingly happy with their nominee.

Pressure on Obama to perform

The pressure is squarely on the president Tuesday night, given his performance in Denver.

Pressure on Romney to sustain momentum

But Romney, too, needs a strong evening to cement the first. He cannot afford any backsliding. His advisers know that if, as expected, the president does a better job Tuesday, stories will inevitably be written about his bounce-back. No one expects a second mismatch.

The Benghazi bungle

[Romney is expected to criticize Obama regarding] the recent attacks in Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and the administration’s changing stories about what happened, are symptomatic of broader weaknesses in Obama’s foreign policy. Romney has pressed the Libya issue aggressively in recent days, but his advisers are still trying to gauge just how much political traction it may provide. Obama advisers believe it will not be as significant as Romney hopes.

Obama’s empty agenda

There’s one other weakness in Obama’s message: the question of what his second-term agenda actually is. He has been vague about this throughout the campaign, preferring to focus on criticisms of Romney and defense of his first-term achievements. If he has something important to say about a second term, Tuesday night affords him the opportunity to say it.

Diminishing impact of debates

The last two debates have the potential to change the race again — and the candidates will prepare accordingly — but it’s likely that the biggest impact has already occurred.

Ground game and Turnout

Increasingly, both campaigns are focused on the real competition, which is turning out identified supporters and winning over the few remaining undecided voters.

Ohio for all the marbles

Romney, for example, has been spending much more time in Ohio in an apparent attempt to turn around a state that remains crucial to his White House hopes. He campaigned here Tuesday and Wednesday, he and Ryan campaigned in different parts of the state Saturday, and Ryan will be back Monday. Romney can get to 270 electoral votes without Ohio, but he would have to win Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and either New Hampshire or Wisconsin. In other words, he would have to win just about every other battleground state. Obama advisers have expressed confidence about Ohio. They see Romney as a flawed candidate for the Buckeye State this year: a corporate takeover artist mismatched with a state where blue-collar workers who have seen their jobs disappear over the years are wary of someone with his profile, and where the auto bailout, which Romney opposed, has helped boost confidence. But Obama, too, is taking precautions in Ohio. His campaign staffers and volunteers are trying to bank as many early votes as possible, knowing that they have a bigger challenge in turning out their voters than does Romney. The president will campaign in Ohio the day after the Hofstra debate. And on Saturday, the campaign announced a big rally for Thursday that will feature former president Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen — an event clearly designed to get the president’s base to the polls and to win over undecided voters.

12 Comments

  1. housebroken dad
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    Debunking that absurd PPP OH poll from yesterday: http://ace.mu.nu/archives/333823.php

    • Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink | Reply

      The first three initials should have debunked it already.

      • John fisher
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        It would be interesting to see all battleground states excluding PPP

  2. Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Is this the Foreign Policy debate on Tuesday?

    • shane
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink | Reply

      tues is the townhall, the last debate is foreign policy. So the last impression voters will get of Obama is the disaster of Libya and his continued crowing over Osama bin laden.

      The fact Obama went back to hitting on Romney’s tax returns shows the flailing of this campaign. Remember these guys aren’t used to being the underdog and having to defend themselves.

      • damien
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        tuesday will be two against one with cc as the mod…..im worried though…romney is out campainging while obama is cramming…better hit the books mitt please

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Mitt will do fine. Don’t worry.

      • WillBest
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Town hall debate isn’t a back and forth, and the questions are from the audience (though they are pre-screened). The worst the moderator can do is tell them their time is up. And as long as Romney pays attention to the light indicator he will do fine.

        It is a much more controlled environment and it is infinitely harder for a candidate to win or lose. The whole format is designed such that two competent people will tie.

        As has been pointed out it is incredibly unlikely for Obama to get the knockout he will need to right his ship in this debate, and the last debate is both too close to election (90%+ have already made up their minds) and is about foreign policy which is 1) something the middle doesn’t really care about and 2) something Obama just fucked up bad, and then got caught lying about it.

    • Medicine Man
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I remember right after the convention Mitt took a week off for debate prep. It bothered me to a point, but deep down I knew reaching 60 million plus with a good debate would be infinitely more valuable than 4-5 campaign stops in early September. Mitt, IMO, had a higher baseline regarding prep. Obama has much more catch up. Mitt will change his approach to deflecting an angry BO. Axelrod more than likely will try the Biden approach on Mitt. I had to be overconfident (see Supreme Court decision this summer), but I sure wouldn’t want to be the Net Roots regarding thinking about Tuesday night.

  3. David
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The best way to look at the Tuesday debate is as a meeting with very nervous investors. Mitt has done plenty of those type of meetings when he was with Bain. He should do fine.

    Obama, however, is between a rock and a hard place. He can’t become too aggressive (or too assertive) and negative – which runs counter to his personality. If he does, he risks appearing more desperate than what he is now. By the same token, he can’t play it too cool for the risk of appearing too aloof

  4. MikeN
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    One dispute with the comments about losing Ohio. New Hampshire is not necessary. Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada add up to 21 votes, where New Hampshire and Ohio are 22, so those 3 states would yield a 269-269 tie, which is effectively a win for Romney. Add in one vote in Maine and 270 is reached.

  5. wholefoodsrepublican
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    don’t you have to worry about nebraska also losing one vote for the democrat?
    the best strategy is to win big

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