Obama and Romney prepare for TV showdown
Romney is up against it in tomorrow night’s debate as he attempts a comeback, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington
BARACK OBAMA and Mitt Romney will spend today holed up with advisers impersonating their political rival in the run-up to what could be the determining event of the US presidential campaign. As many as 60 million Americans are expected to tune in for tomorrow night’s presidential debate on domestic policy at the University of Denver.
President Obama blocked out yesterday and today to rehearse at a lakeside resort near Las Vegas, where Senator John Kerry is playing the role of Mitt Romney for him.
Kerry, a chief contender to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in a second Obama administration, has intimate knowledge of Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts. When he made a failed bid for the presidency in 2004, Kerry, like Romney, suffered from an image as a wealthy patrician.
True to character, Romney began preparing for the debate last June, using Senator Rob Portman of Ohio as his Obama surrogate. Portman played Obama before, in 2008, in mock debates with the failed Republican candidate John McCain.
Romney has far surpassed Obama in hours of preparation, devoting at least an hour a day to verbal jousts with Portman, as well as the entire week of the Democratic convention.
But over-preparation could reduce the Republican candidate’s already low stock of spontaneity. “When Romney speaks, it’s like watching the gears turn in his brain, while he searches for the mental cue card,” a European diplomat observed.
Romney is reportedly rehearsing a series of “zingers” that he will attempt to fire at Obama during the interview. Only twice in the campaign has Romney succeeded in being funny: at the Republican convention in Tampa, when he said he did not want to risk hell by investing the Mormon church’s money in his private equity fund, and last week in New York, when he said he hoped for a “Clinton bounce” after his appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Obama has held several sessions with Kerry at Democratic national headquarters in Washington, but he has repeatedly postponed or cancelled mock debates to do his job as president, for example during the crisis over the murder of four US diplomats in Benghazi on September 11th.
His administration’s handling of the attack has been severely criticised by Republicans in recent days.
Although tomorrow’s debate is not meant to address foreign policy, Romney may bring up the shift in the administration’s description of the Benghazi attack, which evolved from a “spontaneous reaction” on September 16th to “deliberate and organised” on September 28th.