Debate Advice

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The first Presidential Debate is coming up on October 3.  It will focus on domestic policy.  Currently the race is tied up, contrary to many media polls dreaming of a 2008 Democrat D-7 turnout, with both candidates at the mid-Forties.  That is bad news for any incumbent.  What does Romney have to do in the debate to begin to take the lead?

1.  Showing up without horns and a tail.  The media currently is so laughably biased that you should gain at least a point by simply demonstrating that you are a fairly intelligent, articulate candidate.  One advantage to running against a stacked media is that when voters can see the candidate unfiltered it begins to penetrate through to a few undecided voters that they have been lied to by the media about the candidate not favored by the media.

2.  More of the same.  One of your main arguments should be that if you liked the last four years you should vote for Obama, because you are bound to get precisely the same policies from him in the next four years.

3.  Gas and food.  Gas prices and food prices have sky-rocketed under Obama.  Hit that hard, and then hit it hard again.

4.  Ignore the questions.  Rest assured that the questions will range from the asinine to the gotcha.  Ignore them.  Talk about what you want to talk about while paying mere lip service to answering the question.

5.  Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.  By the time you are finished make certain that the voters believe that your middle name is “Jobs”.  Promise to put America back to work.  Tie it in with stopping Obama’s job killing restrictions on energy production.  Don’t be shy about saying that Obama has virtually no private sector experience and that it shows, and that if Obama were the CEO of a company, that company would be in bankruptcy court.

6.  Better off than four years ago?  Use Reagan’s classic better off than four years ago line, and add this twist:  If Obama is re-elected will you be worse off in four years than you are now?

7.  Government Dependency.  Argue that millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have become increasingly dependent on Government due to the miserable economic policies of Obama.

8.  Tell us what you will do.  Have five bullet points that you will implement to fix the economy.  Make them simple and to the point.

9.  Fiscal Cliff.  Repeat over and over again the six trillion in debt that Obama has run up.  That may seem old news to you, but I assure you that it will be new news to many voters.

10. Heart in the Fight.  During McCain’s debates with Obama he seemed to be only going through the motions.  You have to convince the American people that you view Obama as a failed President whose polices have been devastating to the country and that you are giving everything you’ve got to make certain that his presidency will come to an end next January.

38 Responses to Debate Advice

  • First question: “Mr. Romney, When did you stop beating your wife?”

  • “Mr. Romney, When did you stop beating your wife?”

    I am glad that you asked me about Jobs instead of some ridiculous question. The polices of this administration have turned a typical recession into an unending one, as the unemployed 23 million of our fellow Americans can attest. They have no chance of finding employment until Mr. Obama loses his job. Good question!

  • Public relations is not my book.

    Just to point out (in regard to point #3) that in a well operating market economy you will have price flux and you should not make too much of what goes on in particular markets unless they are demonstrably a function of some public policy. That sort of thing could get hung around Romney’s neck like a rubber chicken should he win and be a candidate for re-election.

    With regard to point #5, I think if we researched it we would find that the healing of labor markets takes time. Even with a program of economic liberalization, it took British labor markets more than 15 years to recover from the recessions of 1979-83. The thing is, a therapeutic program for labor markets (essential in France and beneficial here) steps all over a mess of vested interests and cultural norms and would be the subject of the most dreadful demagogy by the odious Reid & Co. Romney would really need brass balls and a generous majority in Congress to pull it off.

    With regard to point #8, what do you imagine the bullet points would be? Fiscal consolidation is a necessity, but unless I am misunderstanding terribly, the Ryan plan takes that real slow.

  • “Just to point out (in regard to point #3) that in a well operating market economy you will have price flux and you should not make too much of what goes on in particular markets unless they are demonstrably a function of some public policy.”

    Much of the food and gas price increases Art are a direct function of the Obama administration’s refusal to develop domestic energy sources. This is a policy followed by the Democrat party for decades. He should hang it around Obama’s neck.

    “With regard to point #5, I think if we researched it we would find that the healing of labor markets takes time.”

    No, the stubbornly high unemployment rate is sui generis for all post World War II recoveries.

    “With regard to point #8, what do you imagine the bullet points would be?”
    1. Slash corporate tax rates to the lowest in the world.
    2. Abolish the capital gains tax.
    3. Give business a three year window to completely depreciate all new equipment purchased in each fiscal year.
    4. Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley.
    5. Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.

  • Your advice recalls the old adage, “Oppositions don’t win elections; governments lose elections.”

  • No, the stubbornly high unemployment rate is sui generis for all post World War II recoveries.

    Britain had an unemployment rate of 13% three years after production levels began to improve in 1983. The last time the United States had an economic contraction induced by a financial crisis, we also had a labor market which responded only weakly to vigorous improvements in production levels. With regard to our more recent past, we had the mildest of recessions in 2001 (four quarters of alternating growth and contraction), but the condition of the labor market deteriorated for an additional two years. It was not until the summer of 2003 that conditions in that realm began to improve. Public policies followed by the Democratic Congress (assented to by Obama and, in a few measures, Bush) have made things worse than they otherwise would be. It should not surprise us, however, if the behavior of employers were to respond haltingly and slowly to a reversal of course.

    Much of the food and gas price increases Art are a direct function of the Obama administration’s refusal to develop domestic energy sources.

    Whether the specific decisions in this realm are good public policy or bad, I tend to doubt an econometric analysis would really show that long term decisions about investment in a country that produces a modest fraction of the world’s petroleum are really driving more than a small quantum of the short term price flux you see in oil markets (much less other commodities). You will recall that the spot price of oil reached $150 a barrel in 2008 and then fell (IIRC) to about $50 a barrel a couple of years later. B.O. is not responsible for that. I also do not think we should much care where the oil we consume is produced so long as we can minimize the risk of political blackmail and of physical inaccessibility of supplies in the event of a general war. A great power should be keeping some accessible supplies in reserve for certain contingencies.

    I cannot figure what your five bullet points are meant to accomplish. Sarbanes-Oxley concerns accounting practices and corporate governance, no? How is that a priority now, bar that mark-to-market accounting tends to conflate liquidity and solvency, but was it mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley?)? As for the rest, they are all recommendations for tax reduction, which is a strange thing to do when federal public sector borrowing stands at 9% of domestic product per annum.

  • “Britain had an unemployment rate of 13% three years after production levels began to improve in 1983.”

    Apples and rock salt Art. Last time I looked we were living in the US. Show me a post war recovery in the US where unemployment has stayed as high as in this recovery for such a lengthy period of time.

    “Whether the specific decisions in this realm are good public policy or bad, I tend to doubt an econometric analysis would really show that long term decisions about investment in a country that produces a modest fraction of the world’s petroleum are really driving more than a small quantum of the short term price flux you see in oil markets”

    Rubbish. Domestic production of our own oil would be much cheaper than foreign imports and would not be subject to periodic price shocks from Middle East crises.

    “I cannot figure what your five bullet points are meant to accomplish. Sarbanes-Oxley concerns accounting practices and corporate governance, no?”

    To get business off its back Art. My recommendations would lead to business entering a rapid period of exapansion. As for Sarbanes-Oxley, the cost of compliance has proven crippling to business. You can’t address the budget deficit Art unless you have a robust and growing private sector and unless you slash the public sector to the bone. It astonishes me that so many people are in denial of this simple reality.

  • Apples and rock salt Art. Last time I looked we were living in the US.

    Economics is not anthropology. The human particular is not all that influential in the course of economic phenomena.

    Rubbish. Domestic production of our own oil would be much cheaper than foreign imports and would not be subject to periodic price shocks from Middle East crises.

    Oil geology is not my business, but I have been told that drilling cost increases exponentially as you dig deeper. Obviously, transportation costs and insurance costs derived from using foreign sources are higher, but I would submit to you we began to import escalating quantities of oil from foreign sources because it was….less expensive.

    As for price shocks from political factors in the Near East, oil is fungible and there is a global market in it. As long as there oil being produced in the Near East and sold elsewhere, the effects of supply shocks and uncertainty will be transmitted throughout that global market.

    You can’t address the budget deficit Art unless you have a robust and growing private sector and unless you slash the public sector to the bone. It astonishes me that so many people are in denial of this simple reality.

    It is not a simple reality.

  • “The human particular is not all that influential in the course of economic phenomena.”

    The economy of the United States is not the economy of Great Britain. Obama has presided over the worst recovery in US post war history in regard to unemployment.

    “but I would submit to you we began to import escalating quantities of oil from foreign sources because it was….less expensive.”

    I think EPA regulations had just as much to do with it Art. In any case the days of cheap foreign oil from the Middle East are over. Once the Israel-Iran war starts I think everyone will understand that.

    “It is not a simple reality.”

    I think it is Art, absent debt repudiation or Weimar style inflation which amounts to the same thing.

  • Months ago, Greg Gutfeld predicted that an Obama/Romney debate would be like swimming in vaseline.

  • He also has to define his opponent for who he really is. Obama is not just a nice guy who happens to be an incompetent president. But that he is a lying mean-spirited, divisive left wing hack and that giving him another four years is seriously detrimental to this country.

    If Romney trots out the “He’s a nice guy, but…” line, he’s done.

  • Point #3, What is also adding to higher fuel costs are initiatives like ethanol. A bad crop here and there and food and fuel prices go up. I don’t like ethanol or its subsidies. But, Romney isn’t going to change that unfortunately.

    Point #4, That’s what I liked about Perry and Newt. Perry would ignore the question. Newt would ignore the question but only after giving the media a dressing down.

    Great list of points. And I agree with Greg, don’t come to a fight with that “Obama is a nice guy” or “Obama is a patriot”, etc. stuff. It’s go time!

  • Agreed as to the pap that Obama is a nice guy. He isn’t and there is no milage in pretending he is. Good call as to Ethanol Kyle, truly one of the more insidious boondoggles that our country has gotten involved in.

  • Point #3 (more), Another reason prices are going up… http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Bernanke-keeps-pushing-failed-policy-3884095.php

    Recognize the author? :-) The dollar gets devalued. Guess what oil markets trade with? The U.S. dollar. It becomes worth less, so it takes more dollars to buy the same amount of oil. Fuel goes up, production goes up, consumer pays more. Thanks for the irresponsible spending Mr. President.

    Of course, the Obama hacks will say “Obama has no control of QE.”

  • The U.S. dollar. It becomes worth less, so it takes more dollars to buy the same amount of oil.

    The annual increases in various price indices have (the last four years) been at the pace which has prevailed for a generation. Inflation is simply not a problem at this time.

    The economy of the United States is not the economy of Great Britain.

    Both are modern industrial economies and their labor markets are given to the same phenomena a pattern of responses. A notable difference in particulars was that Britain in 1979 had higher rates of union membership, highly confrontational industrial relations, and rules attending unemployment compensation which allowed people to stay on longer than was the case in the states. These factors influence the labor market, but you can have terribly sclerotic labor markets without them (as did the United States during the Depression). Keep in mind, that an aspect of the Thatcher government’s program was liberalization of labor markets. It still took a long time for them to recover.

    I think EPA regulations had just as much to do with it Art.

    We can examine the academic literature on the point. IIRC, peak oil production in the United States occurred in 1972, when the EPA was a novelty and mostly concerned with water and air pollution.

    I think it is Art, absent debt repudiation or Weimar style inflation which amounts to the same thing.

    Come again?

  • “I think it is Art, absent debt repudiation or Weimar style inflation which amounts to the same thing.

    Come again?”

    I would have thought I was clear. Absent debt repudiation or hyperinflation I see no way for the country to get out of its public debt situation absent a rapidly growing private sector and a public sector that is slashed to the bone.

  • “We can examine the academic literature on the point. IIRC, peak oil production in the United States occurred in 1972, when the EPA was a novelty and mostly concerned with water and air pollution.”

    And when most of our new technologies to extract huge amounts of oil were still decades in the future. The technology has moved on Art and the Democrats are fighting it every step of the way, and environmental concerns are their weapon of choice. The latest is the absurd claim that fracking causes earthquakes.

  • “Both are modern industrial economies and their labor markets are given to the same phenomena a pattern of responses.”

    I disagree Art. I think that the US labor market has to be judged by its own post war record in assessing the current unemployment situation and the duration of high unemployment since 2009.

  • Here’s an interesting statistic I found on Free Republic. Since 1872, no Republican has lost an election when the date fell on Nov 6th – there was no GOPer running in 1844:
    1872 – Grant
    1900 – Mckinley
    1928 – Hoover
    1956 – Ike
    1984 – Reagan

    Only 1900 was a single digit margin:

    1872- Grant 56%, Greeley 44%
    1900- McKinnley 52%, Bryan 46%
    1928- Hoover 58%, Smith 41%
    1956- Eisenhower 57%, Stevenson 42%
    1984- Reagan 59%, Mondale 41%

    I hope this is a good sign.

  • Fortunately for Dems their election day falls on Wednesday November 7th! Spread the word! :)

  • CORRECTION: The election of 1872 fell on the 5th. The elections of 1860 (Lincoln) and 1888 (Harrison) fell on the 6th. This election day will be the 7th election since Lincoln falling on the 6th all won by Republicans. Sorry for the error, but nevertheless, still a good omen.

  • My only comment/question is how foolish (to use a mild term) can Repubs be to allow the Left wing Debate Commission to choose Obama campaign operatives as the questioners? Lest this seem harsh let’s remember Stephanopoulus acting as a campaign operative with his seemingly bizarre off the wall banning contraceptives question. Soon after, the war on women ad campaign began saying that Repubs wanted to take away contraceptives. Where did he get that question if not from Axelrod or the DNC?? So here is what will happen: the moderators will “share” their questions with the Obama campaign (or have the DNC deliver the questions to them). Obama will memorize answers for his questions. Then he will memorize soundbites as zingers to comment on Romney’s response to questions. Romney evading the question will not prevent the soundbite zinger nor will the content of Romney’s reply. Non sequiturs don’t matter since the Media will endlessly replay the prepared soundbites by themselves. If someone finds this too off putting, please provide an explanation for Stephanopoulus.

  • If the Republican were the incumbant and way ahead in the polls I would not tolerate it. However, Romney as the challenger needs the exposure of the debates. My guess is that Obama would be happy to forego the debates right now if he could. I doubt if Obama gets the questions in advance, certainly judging from his lacklustre performance in the debates with McCain he had no advance notice of the questions. He had two advantages then however that he doesn’t have now:

    1. After the economic meltdown McCain, or any other Republican for that matter, was doomed in that Presidential contest.

    2. McCain had given up by the time of the debates as demonstrated by his listless poor performances.

  • My advice would be to remember Rocky II, where Rocky fought as a right-hander. Own Romneycare in the first 15 minutes of the first debate – a leader has to work with the other party, and I made the best legislation that I could. My opponent can’t even work with his own party. He hasn’t passed a budget in three years. He’s done nothing about the economy. He let the special interests write the health care bill. He’s a failed leader because he refuses to lead, refuses to do anything more than attack his opponents.

    Then slam him on Obamacare and the tone in Washington.

    He won’t see it coming. It doesn’t even matter who the “special interests” are. People have the sense that things aren’t working, and if you lay it all at his feet, AND take away the above-all-the-politics image, you give the undecided voter a reason to permit himself to vote against the President.

    It’s all about the independent voter and the Reagan Democrat. They’re open to hearing why Obama might not be the best president. They need Romney to justify the hunch that Obama is actually the problem. If Romney owns Romneycare, he makes himself look like the moderate that he actually is. The genius of this strategy is that it conforms to reality. And you set him up for the left hand like Rocky did: other than Obamacare, what has this president actually accomplished?

  • Normally debates don’t affect the outcome unless there is some really bad performance such as Ford freeing Poland or Dukakis’ off putting answer concerning his wife ( or Rick Perry freezing). For this reason alone, Obama has a tremendous motivation to get the questions. His performances off-teleprompter lately have been really bad. If his campaign could get sealed court records I’m sure they can get at least a draft of the questions (it’s remotely possible the moderators wouldn’t know about it.). Given these circumstances the pressure is more on Romney to survive in a hostile environment and not flub it. I don’t really think he and his team are capable (or perhaps even interested) to take the fight to Obama.

    And sadly I don’t think the Repubs would object to the moderators even under the scenario you outlined.

  • Is religious freedom considered “just” a social issue and thus not included in the list to be addressed?
    The social issue of abortion and all issues that affect the family are in fact economic issues. The most basic ingredient of the economy is people.

  • “Normally debates don’t affect the outcome unless there is some really bad performance such as Ford freeing Poland or Dukakis’ off putting answer concerning his wife ( or Rick Perry freezing).”

    Depends. I believe that Reagan went ahead of Carter after his late one and only debate with Carter. Carter made no major gaffes, but Reagan was quite good, and bore no relationship to how much of the media had portrayed him in the campaign.

    “Obama has a tremendous motivation to get the questions.”
    Any candidate would, but I can tell from his performace in 2008 that he did not. Certainly idiot Biden had no advance access to questions before his stumbling performance against Palin.
    “If his campaign could get sealed court records”
    Which they had to go to court to get against both his Democrat primary opponent and against Jack Ryan. Slimy politics? Most certainly, but not a black bag operation.
    “I’m sure they can get at least a draft of the questions (it’s remotely possible the moderators wouldn’t know about it.)”
    If they are able to that would be a first. It would be pretty easy to detect a candidate who is giving a canned response to a question. Additionally there would still be the problem of responding to what the other candidate says.

    “Given these circumstances the pressure is more on Romney to survive in a hostile environment and not flub it. I don’t really think he and his team are capable (or perhaps even interested) to take the fight to Obama.”

    I think that is a little paranoid. Romney has spent a huge amount of money and time to be elected president. I have no doubt that he wants to beat Obama. In his earlier debate performances he improved over time. He will never be a Reagan, but then neither is Obama, the most over-rated orator of our time.

  • “Is religious freedom considered “just” a social issue and thus not included in the list to be addressed?”

    There is going to be a section on the role of government and Romney should hit the religious freedom issue hard in that section. However, I have no doubt that the major issue on the minds of most undecided voters will be the economy.

    http://www.debates.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=41&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01detailtemplate=newspage&cntnt01returnid=80

  • If I recall correctly Morton Kondracke’s account of how the debate panel he was a member of proceeded in 1984, the panelists worked out their questions in informal discussions with each other with very little advance planning (I think their last discussion was just before the broadcast). If that continues to be the case, Obama will not get the questions unless one of the panelists is a total shill.

    Does anyone know the process by which creatures such as Scott Pelley end up on these panels?

  • I would have thought I was clear. Absent debt repudiation or hyperinflation I see no way for the country to get out of its public debt situation absent a rapidly growing private sector and a public sector that is slashed to the bone.

    I am just not understanding your intermediate steps here. Growth rates are a function of rates of technological innovation and organizational efficiencies. Sclerosis induced by poor public policies can inhibit that and certainly cause static deadweight losses. The thing is, the level and timing of static and dynamic improvements are hard to predict. I suspect you would also discover that the largest source of inefficiencies are cross-subsidies incorporated into the tax code. The policy response would be to clear out the cross-subsidies. Doing so does not dictate a particular marginal rate schedule.

    And, yes, the size of the public sector is inversely related to measures of economic dynamism. However, this can only be true above a certain threshhold and there is the question of the effect of short term disruptions to be caused by abrupt changes in pubic spending as against long-term improvements in the trajectory of growth. In the matter of fiscal consolidation, you are looking perhaps one business cycle ahead, no more.

    Right now the task is to discontinue high levels of public sector borrowing before the bond market cuts us off at the bar. There is quite a mix of ways to do this. I still cannot figure why our current situation determines that public spending be ‘cut to the bone’. We have had this conversation several times and I am still waiting for you to specify what you want to cut, how much, and why.

  • thank you Donald for the info and the link. God bless Romney and Ryan and all their associates in their planning and prep for the debates. I thank God for all He will do. God bless Pelley and others to turn their hearts to Truth,

  • Much of the food and gas price increases Art are a direct function of the Obama administration’s refusal to develop domestic energy sources.

    At least with respect to energy, I have heard from many energy industry sources that lack of updated refining capacity is big factor – due to the prohibitve cost of compliance with regs for refurbishing/building, for a lot of them it is not cost effective. At least that is what they say. That is something Romney could press without even getting into the issue of drilling in “sensitive” lands.

  • As a practical matter, I think that hitting on gas and food prices are a bad idea, because they have very easy common-sense replies. Gas – the prices are going to decline in the next months because summer is over. Food – there’s a drought; you can’t blame that on me.

  • “Gas – the prices are going to decline in the next months because summer is over. Food – there’s a drought; you can’t blame that on me.”

    Then Romney cites the price hikes from 2009 to today which have very little to do with short term phenomena.

  • “There is going to be a section on the role of government and Romney should hit the religious freedom issue hard in that section. However, I have no doubt that the major issue on the minds of most undecided voters will be the economy.”

    Another issue Romney can expose Obama as a bald faced liar on. Even a recent Obama campaign ad has Obama claiming to defend religious liberty. To assert this claim after the HHS Mandate takes some serious naddies on Obama’s part. Thing is, he doesn’t expect Romney to call him on it. But Mitt damned well better.

  • For a man who promised to control the sea levels, bringing rain to drought stricken areas should be trivial. (“Bringing rain” should probably read “create rain” in Obama’s case. He’s that god.(sic))

  • Romney hit Obama hard in the ad below on religious freedom so I imagine he will do so in the debate

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