Mitt Romney will lose the first presidential debate on Wednesday — so says the Mitt Romney campaign.
Rather, Romney and his team are very much trying to dial back debate expectations.
In a memo which was distributed to campaign media surrogates re: Wednesday's first presidential debate against President Obama in Denver, longtime Romney adviser Beth Myers tried to lower expectations for the Romney campaign, detailing a series of reasons why Obama is likely to emerge as the winner of the first debate.
She writes that Obama is "widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history."
She adds, "This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first." Myers concludes that the debates will not, in fact, decide the election: "It will be decided by the American people," she says (read the full memo below).
The announcement is bizarre. The political calculus behind the memo seems flimsy. The rationale here doesn’t make sense. Why would Romney actively say he will fail to meet the highest standards in one of the most pivotal moments to date in this election?
Romney might as well hedge his bets and say he plans on losing the general election on November 6, too.
With Romney tanking in the polls, most analysts believe that the Republican nominee’s big chance to make a splash among voters will be the presidential debate. At the debates, Romney could outline to a national audience why his policy recommendations are superior to the president’s and paint himself as a more confident, refined politician. It’ll all be about presentation, of course, but it will be a critical moment.
And Romney very much needs to win out-right, because the news isn’t looking good for him.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Friday showed Romney losing big battleground states:
In North Carolina Romney is down 2 (48% to 46%).
In Nevada Romney is down 2 (49% to 47%).
In New Hampshire Romney is down 7 (51% to 44%).
And don’t forget the most critical of the swing states — Ohio and Florida — where Romney is also losing.
“Obama's leads in each of the these states are fueled by voters' improved feelings about the direction of the country, Obama's handling of the economy and Romney's continued struggles with likability," writes NBC's Domenico Montanaro.
There also continues to be a huge gender gap, with Obama leading with women by 20 points in New Hampshire, 16 points in North Carolina and 11 points in Nevada.
Obama is also close to his levels with white voters from 2008 in each of these states. And though there is a drop in the likelihood that millennials will turn out in the numbers they did to impact the race for the president, Obama makes up for it with continued robust support from minority voters (African Americans support Obama at levels close to 100%).
A new poll even shows that George W. Bush is seen in a more favorable light than Romney.
So here we are, at the presidential debates, a must-win situation for Romney.
The presidential debates will very much be a referendum on who should be president. Despite their glitz and glamour and made-for-TV moments, these debates will be the most interaction many voters have with the candidates. The substance may not be there in terms of policy, but American voters don’t always tend to vote on policy.
This will be all about crushing the other guy in the debate. And Romney had loads of debate experience against GOP rivals in the Republican primaries earlier this year, while the last debate Obama was a part of was on October 15, 2008.
Romney could steal the election on Wednesday. But then again Romney might not even want to win the election.
Read for yourself:
From: Beth Myers, Senior Adviser
To: Interested Parties
Date: September 27, 2012
Re: 2012 Presidential Debates
In a matter of days, Governor Romney and President Obama will meet on the presidential debate stage. President Obama is a universally-acclaimed public speaker and has substantial debate experience under his belt. However, the record he's compiled over the last four years – higher unemployment, lower incomes, rising energy costs, and a national debt spiraling out of control – means this will be a close election right up to November 6th.
Between now and then, President Obama and Governor Romney will debate three times. While Governor Romney has the issues and the facts on his side, President Obama enters these contests with a significant advantage on a number of fronts.
Voters already believe – by a 25-point margin – that President Obama is likely to do a better job in these debates. Given President Obama's natural gifts and extensive seasoning under the bright lights of the debate stage, this is unsurprising. President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history. This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first.
Four years ago, Barack Obama faced John McCain on the debate stage. According to Gallup, voters judged him the winner of each debate by double-digit margins, and their polling showed he won one debate by an astounding 33-point margin. In the 2008 primary, he faced Hillary Clinton, another formidable opponent – debating her one-on-one numerous times and coming out ahead. The takeaway? Not only has President Obama gained valuable experience in these debates, he also won them comfortably.
But what must President Obama overcome? His record. Based on the campaign he's run so far, it's clear that President Obama will use his ample rhetorical gifts and debating experience to one end: attacking Mitt Romney. Since he won't – and can't – talk about his record, he'll talk about Mitt Romney. We fully expect a 90-minute attack ad aimed at tearing down his opponent. If President Obama is as negative as we expect, he will have missed an opportunity to let the American people know his vision for the next four years and the policies he'd pursue. That's not an opportunity Mitt Romney will pass up. He will talk about the big choice in this election – the choice between President Obama's government-centric vision and Mitt Romney's vision for an opportunity society with more jobs, higher take-home pay, a better-educated workforce, and millions of Americans lifted out of poverty into the middle class.
This election will not be decided by the debates, however. It will be decided by the American people. Regardless of who comes out on top in these debates, they know we can't afford another four years like the last four years. And they will ultimately choose a better future by electing Mitt Romney to be our next president.