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Obama played bad defense against an articulate, high-scoring Romney (+video)

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Obama never tried to go on the attack against Romney. No mention of his labeling 47 percent of the nation as lazy shiftless folk who relish government dependency. No raising of women’s issues. No real effort to put the “flip flopper” label on Romney. When Romney has lost debates in the past, to Ted Kennedy and others, it’s when people expose his acrobatic position taking, and forced him to defend it. Why didn’t Obama bring back Kennedy’s wicked line about Romney being “multiple choice” on abortion?

That’s the way you attack Romney. You point out the numerous contrary positions he’s had in public life, and say that he’s a man who will say anything to win an election. A man without conviction or principle. This works to get Romney angry, and to get viewers to discount everything else he says.

Senior White House advisor David Plouffe defended the president’s “quiet dignity” to cable commentators in the Spin Room after the debate last night. But that’s not what undecided voters – even Obama supporters – saw. Where the Obama campaign might have been going for reserve and civility, those voters saw weakness and weariness. Basic campaign strategy says that the candidate who has a likability advantage is the one who has the better ability to go on the offensive. If Mr. Plouffe told Obama to be quietly dignified and avoid attacking Romney as a flipflopper, he should be fired.

We were told Romney would have clever “zingers” that would get the media’s attention. He didn’t. Rather, he had articulate brief attacks and points that were largely substantive. He told moderator Jim Lehrer that he liked PBS, he liked Big Bird, but he would zero out public broadcasting. He promised to use a simple test to decide whether to cut a federal program: Is this program worth borrowing money from China? To those few undecided moderates in the middle, those few remaining Perot voters, that type of symbolic elimination looks like courage, even though the number of dollars involved in those proposed cuts would be ridiculously small.

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