One of the most startling moments of the 2012 presidential campaign was the poor showing of President Obama in the First Debate with Mitt Romney. What happened? You had to rub your eyes in total wonder. The smart and charismatic Obama unable to match his wooden and often clueless GOP challenger, Mitt Romney?
Now, a few days after Obama’s surprisingly easy victory, I began putting the pieces together about the First Debate.
First, the Obama campaign by last spring had defined Romney for what he is. A rich guy with little understanding or care about minorities and women’s rights. Remember the Democrats’ mantra: “class warfare” and “the war on women?” The Romney that Hispanics, blacks, Asian Americans and women saw terrified them.
Even then Obama knew he would never win the white-male vote. The only way he could win the election was to create a sense of urgency among his base and a sense of complacency among his opponents. To win, he needed a strong voter turnout for Democrats and a weak one for Republicans.
I believe Obama deliberately tanked the First Debate to put fear into the heart of his base, to assure its huge turnout on Election Day. And turnout that base did!
Rush Limbaugh, the GOP propagandist, based his show yesterday on the weak Republican turnout on Tuesday. Three million Republicans didn’t vote.
“The numbers,” Limbaugh said, “are stunning.”
Were those three million voters disenchanted with Romney or complacent about his victory? I think it was a little of both.
I liken the Obama strategy to the great boxer Muhammad Ali’s in his 1974 heavyweight championship victory over George Foreman in that famous “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali let Foreman pummel him in the early rounds, sagging against the ropes, then later became more aggressive as Foreman weakened. It was called Rope-A-Dope.
Romney and the GOP never saw it coming.