September 29, 2012
Romney Assembling Series Of Zingers For Debate vs. Obama
WASHINGTON - In a conference room at the Democratic headquarters, President Obama has been preparing for the debate next week, but the reviews of his staff are already in. Too long, they tell him. Cut that answer. Give crisper explanations. No one wants a professor; they want a president.
Hundreds of miles away in New England, Mitt Romney's team has been working to make sure he avoids coming off as a scold. His sparring partner, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, channeling Mr. Obama, has gone after him repeatedly, to the point of being nasty. The goal is to get Mr. Romney agitated and then teach him how to keep his composure, look presidential.
Mr. Romney's team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.
Mr. Romney has focused on going after Mr. Obama without looking too aggressive. He participated in 23 debates during the nomination process, including a pair in Florida in which he effectively destroyed Mr. Gingrich's threat. But general election debates tend to be more sober than the food-fight-type confrontations of a primary season.
During rehearsals, Mr. Romney has tried lines of attack suggesting that Mr. Obama distorts the facts and sloughs off responsibility on others. Mr. Romney's aides recall Mr. Obama's tart "you're likable enough" line to Mrs. Clinton in 2008 and hope to goad him into a similarly churlish moment. Mr. Romney will win, the advisers said, if he can force Mr. Obama to come across as condescending or smug.