The Washington Post

Campaigns look silly trying to set expectations for debates

As the campaigns prepare for the first debate next week, the president's initial effort to lower expectations is an incredible, jaw-dropping assertion even by this White House's standards — and that's saying something. An Obama campaign spokeswoman actually said the president might not have sufficient time to practice because of the responsibilities he has in managing world events and governing.  Is she kidding? No. The Obama campaign expects so much cooperation from the mainstream media that it knows it can say things that absolutely offend common sense and get away with it.

Obama has skipped many national security briefings, he doesn't meet with congressional leaders (he hasn't met with the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence yet this year), he has a sterile visit to the United Nations where he refuses to meet with the prime minister of Israel or any other foreign leaders, and the list goes on. However, the president does have time to prepare for his appearance on “The View”; after all, he does describe himself as "eye candy." Presumably, he has time to prepare for an appearance on “Letterman” or other entertainment programs and for interviews with glossy magazines. Anyway, you get the idea.

By the time the debates get here, the Obama campaign will want you to believe he didn't prepare at all, so it will be a great victory if he completes a sentence.

The news coverage leading up to the debate and the analysis afterward will dwarf the debate itself. The president and Mitt Romney are both able debaters, so the first debate will probably only reinforce what committed voters already think about their candidate. Unless one of them absolutely blithers, the first debate will not be a game-changer. So please spare us all the faux posturing and pretending to be a good campaign pro by spinning to "set expectations." You look silly. Let the debate speak for itself.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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