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Media prepares to spin lackluster Obama debate performance


Is it just me or does it seem like the bar is being set pretty low for President Obama's debate performance Wednesday?

On Sunday, President Obama told a cheering crowd of his own supporters in Las Vegas that Mitt Romney was "a good debater" while he himself was "just ok."

At the same rally, the president also explained how the media is always focused on "who's going to have the best zingers" and "who's going to put the most points on the board." An Obama spokesman then warned reporters not to expect any "zingers" from President Obama.

"This will be a very large audience," Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force Once. "He wants to speak directly to the families -- the people who are on their couches at home, having snacks, drinking a beer, drinking soda, whatever it is, and tuning in for the first time -- and that's who he's speaking directly to."

The Associated Press notes that President Obama's sole mission going into Wednesday's debate is, "Don't screw things up."  The AP also reports similar worries from campaign staff.  "He has had less time to prepare than we anticipated," Psaki says. "It's difficult to schedule significant blocks of time when you're the president."

I expect to hear this line repeated over and over again: I don't have time to really prepare for these debates because I'm too busy governing.  Uh-huh.  Like that would've been an acceptable excuse for anyone but Obama.  What the Obama camp leaves out, however, is that President Obama has had plenty of time to prepare for these debates, both at the White House and during long flights to campaign events aboard Air Force One.  Further, Obama has more experience with general election debates than Romney.

Also setting up Wednesday's debate is news today that thousands of "journalists" are heading into the spin zone this week:

When President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney leave the debate stage at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, many of the 3,000 journalists churning out stories in the University of Denver's Hamilton Gymnasium will head to the spin room, the traditional post-debate gathering place of campaign operatives and surrogates waiting to argue that their candidate won. ...

Spin existed long before there was a room designated for it. Walter Mears, who covered four decades of campaigns for the Associated Press, told The Huffington Post that post-debate spinning evolved as "candidates and allies just started showing up in the press room to claim they'd won." That spinning, Mears said, "was a distraction and a pain if you were trying to write your debate story while they all made their claims."

And while the Obama camp is establishing low expectations for Obama's debate performance, it forces Romney to have to rise to the occasion as the supposed superior debater -- a position the Obama campaign has little faith he'll live up to.

Any way you spin it, it's fascinating to watch the Obama campaign try and lower expectations for their own candidate -- a guy who is normally praised for his articulate poise and teleprompter-reading skills.  The guy is the president -- how much can you really lower expectations of him?


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