Presidential debate prep: Zingers and soliloquies


    Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are currently deep in debate prep, and not just on the issues. What matters more is how they communicate. Voters tend to remember the snappy remark that hits home; rest assured that such remarks are being honed in advance.

    Romney, for instance, is reportedly rehearsing some “zingers,” although that does prompt me to wonder why any candidate should get props on debate night for reciting a canned line of dialogue. In the end, however, the real risk for Romney is not what “zingers” he delivers when he’s on script, but the “zingers” he might come up with if he wanders off script. One can only imagine:

    “Mr. President, do you really think the economy is better off now than when you took office? Betcha $10,000 it isn’t.”

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    “To heck with the pollsters and the liberal media. I wouldn’t give a single one of them a ride in Ann’s Cadillacs.”

    “This president has never created or run a business. He has never even built his own car elevator.”

    “There he goes again, talking about how he saved GM. But what those workers need to know is that only one candidate in this race has never been asked for his birth certificate.”

    “Mr. President, I know Bibi Netanyahu. I worked as a consultant in the ’70s with Bibi Netanyahu. Bibi Netanyahu is a friend of mine. Mr. President, you’re no Bibi Netanyahu.”

    “And so, my fellow job creators, give me the chance to finish the job that George W. Bush did on America.”

    “If I had a dime for every time this president has apologized for America, I could open a new account in the Caymans.”

    “You folks in the hall who keep cheering the president’s answers – gosh, if you don’t stop, you won’t get your welfare checks.”

    As for President Obama, his supporters have to hope that he will stay crisp and concise – and thus steer clear of his trademark professorial soliloquies, the kind that work better than Ambien to induce restful sleep. One can only imagine what he might say about the costs of health care reform:

    “Well, before we talk about how to pay for it, let’s talk about what exactly needs to be done. And the reason I want to emphasize this is because there’s been a lot of misinformation out there. Right now, premiums for families that have health insurance have doubled over the last 10 years. They’ve gone up three times faster than wages. So what we know is that, if the current trends continue, more and more families are going to lose health care, more and more families are going to be in a position where they keep their health care but it takes a bigger biting out of their budget. Employers are going to put more and more costs on employees or they’re just going to stop providing health care altogether. We also know that health care inflation on the curve that it’s on, we’re guaranteed to see Medicare and Medicaid basically break the federal budget. And we know that we’re spending – on average we, here in the United States, are spending about $6,000 more than other advanced countries where they’re just as healthy. And I’ve said this before, if you found out that your neighbor had gotten the same car for $6000 less, you’d want to figure out how to get that deal. And that’s what reform is all about. How can we make sure that we are getting the best bang for our health care dollar. Now, what we did very early on was say two-thirds of the costs of health care reform, which includes providing coverage for people who don’t have it, making it more affordable for folks who do, and making sure that we’re, over the long term, creating the kinds of systems where prevention and wellness and information technologies make the system more efficient. That the entire cost of that has to be paid for and it has got to be deficit-neutral. And we identified two-thirds of those costs to be paid for by tax dollars that are already being spent right now. So taxpayers are already putting this money into the kitty. The problem is, they’re not getting a good deal for the money they’re spending. That takes care of about two-thirds of the cost. The remaining one-third is about what the argument has been about of late. What I’ve said is that there may be a number of different ways to raise money. I put forward what I thought was the best proposal, which was to limit the deductions, the itemized deductions, for the wealthiest Americans. People like myself could take the same percentage deduction that middle class families do. And that would raise sufficient funds for that final one-third…. I don’t want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy….You know, just a broader point – ”

    That’s the real Obama, verbatim, from a 2009 press conference – and that’s just a small slice of how he answered one question. If the president tries to breach the time limit and talk that way tomorrow night, we’ll all be craving some rehearsed Romney zingers.


    And so, the GOP’s voter suppression scheme is now effectively dead this year in Pennsylvania. This is a victory for democracy, and a stinging judicial defeat for the party that plotted in vain against it.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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