There’s nothing like a solid defeat in the ring to make someone suddenly warm to training for the next fight, as President Obama seems to have found out in the wake of his humiliating defeat by GOP nominee Mitt Romney at the first Presidential debate in Denver, Colorado. Unlike in the run-up to that debate, when Obama made jokes about being made to do his homework, now the president is openly celebrated the process when asked by a reporter how it was going at a Williamsburg campaign office.
“It’s going great,” Obama replied, according to Politico.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki fleshed out the president’s clipped response, making it clear that the president had no intention of turning in a performance with similarities to the one he was so widely panned for two weeks ago.
“The president is his own harshest critic and he knows Mitt Romney had a better night at the first debate,” Psaki said. “The American people should expect to see a much more energized President Obama making a passionate case for why he is a better choice for the middle class.”
This view – of Obama as “his own harshest critic” – contradicts some of the initial reporting after the disastrous debate, which suggested that Obama had originally believed himself to have bested Romney. In all likelihood, that impression has been dismissed by his aides, and now the president is in full training mode against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who is playing Mitt Romney in the debate prep sessions.
Tuesday’s upcoming debate at Hofstra University on Long Island will offer many opportunities for missteps by both candidates. Unlike the first presidential debate – a relatively straightforward exchange of ideas between Obama and Romney with moderator Jim Lehrer mostly looking on – Tuesday’s debate will be hosted in a “town hall” format, with questions asked directly by undecided voters.
This setting may carry problematic implications for both candidates. On the one hand, town hall debates tend to reward shows of empathy, as Bill Clinton demonstrated with his well-known “I feel your pain” answer in the town hall debate against George H. W. Bush, which puts the relatively stiff Romney at a disadvantage. On the other hand, town hall debates tend to be a bad place to go negative, given that too much negativity can sometimes turn off the very undecided voters whose questions the candidates are supposed to be answering. This latter problem afflicts Obama especially hard, given that his campaign has increasingly been relying on attacking Romney.