I traveled afar over the Columbus Day weekend and climbed to the top of a mountain. And I bring to you wisdom that I hurriedly picked up at the airport gift shop.
What is the meaning of the polls which show Romney clobbering Obama? Ah, Democracy! Gotta love it, for what are the alternatives? Maybe the American people really do want to return to the Bush policy formula. It’s possible! But I’m going to rate that as unlikely. From high above the mountaintop treeline, I looked down and saw something different. I saw a flock of homing pigeons take wing together and begin circling to select their final destination. First they flew this way, then that way. Had polling been done on them, there would have been at least two Sunday Talk Shows worth of material. Prior to the debate, people had figured out that Obama makes more sense, but they’re not still happy about it. They want to flirt one more time with the allure of that other guy, the smooth, grinning huckster, who sure does sound persuasive and all with that bottle of promises. Give the homing pigeons a little time and they will come to realize that this is a very bad metaphor.
As for Obama’s performance in the debate? How to explain it? Hubris? Yes, hubris! Obama has some, it’s true. Does it hurt him? JUST DID! His team had a debate plan: to be solid and substantive and sane and it was badly executed. Worse, though, is it was a bad plan and here’s why. They obviously prepared for a version of Romney who didn’t show up. This is a bit inexplicable, because the same Romney NEVER shows up twice in a row. Is it harder to prepare against ANY POSSIBLE ROMNEY who might show up, and be prepared to shift gears and game plan after the debate begins? You bet! But it was an important campaign event, and that’s what they just needed to do.
Obama figured he had the election about wrapped up and could take the chance of underperforming. And the rest is history, as the conventional wisdom will mis-write it. I doubt he calculated that the media amplification of a style-points defeat would end up looking so bad as it did, but hey, he’s running for president. It’s his job to figure that out. Likely he was right in the first calculation and he’ll weather this. Maybe he has that competitor’s confidence that prefers a close game. Unfortunately, for the rest of us it’s not a game. And so, homing pigeons, time to figure out which medicine you want to drink.