Commentary: Romney skips as he moves to the center

The Miami HeraldOctober 11, 2012 

MARQUEZ MYRIAM MI

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

PATRICK FARRELL — Miami Herald/MCT

After Mitt Romney’s masterful debate performance in Colorado, my blue Democratic friends are feeling, well, blue.

And a bit red in the face, too, angry and wondering why President Obama didn’t bring up the 47 percent.

Or why Obama didn’t correct Romney’s “facts” throughout to, say, vigorously defend green energy projects (the overwhelming majority are working despite the Solyndra debacle).

Or insist to Romney that despite his five lying “boys,” the truth is the U.S. tax code is quite generous to the wealthiest 2 percent already, and there’s no fair way to achieve deficit reduction without them sacrificing a little, especially when the middle class has lost the most ground in the past decade. And those tax incentives for companies to take jobs to China, India or wherever do exist, and Bain Capital certainly took advantage of them.

Or raise the issue of entitlements for millionaires, the offshore bank accounts to avoid paying U.S. taxes for gains made in this country — a practice Romney has employed. (Is it not fair to ask Romney if it’s unpatriotic to have done so?)

No man should have to debate on his wedding anniversary, but that still doesn’t excuse Obama’s dismal performance in Denver Wednesday night.

Tin Man, by contrast, has a skip in his step. On Wednesday, he made a sharp left turn and veered toward the center on his campaign’s Yellow Brick Roadmap to Victory.

Republicans are energized. After the no-bounce convention and the damage caused by that secretly taped video in Palm Beach County (where Romney comes off conceited and out of touch with struggling, working Americans), Romney delivered big in his first debate. Engaging, aggressive but respectful, Romney took command of the debate, and Obama seemed lost in the policy weeds, like a scared Scarecrow looking for his brain.

History tells us that’s to be expected. George W. Bush had a terrible first debate seeking his second term against John Kerry, but W. still won. Even Ronald Reagan had a bad performance in his first debate seeking a second term.

Presidents get isolated in the trappings of the office, the heavy burdens of war and global economic uncertainty. My Republican friends would be wise not to discount Obama, though, as polls still show he has the edge in most crucial purple states, though he may start slipping in Florida.

Friday’s release of the monthly unemployment rate at 7.8 percent makes a rosier economic picture for Obama to make his case that the economy is improving under his watch. But Romney also is right to point to those who have given up looking for work and aren’t being counted.

Obama is no Comeback Kid a la Bill Clinton, the only president in recent history to win his first debate seeking a second term (Bob Dole made that easy). Truth is, Obama’s no great debater, either, if you’ll recall how Hillary Clinton won those in 2008.

Romney, by contrast, has been debating for two years, seeking his party’s nomination, now aided behind the political curtain by billionaire GOP bankrollers, the ultraconservative Koch Brothers.

After making his “kinder, gentler” pitch during the Wednesday debate to women and independents, both groups heavily represented in that 47 percent he so disdains, Romney came full circle on Thursday to say he was “completely wrong” in his assessment.

For weeks he had argued that this was more a matter of style than substance, “not elegantly stated.”

He insisted that his facts were right in his broad brush of the 47 percent “dependent” on government. Among the 47 percent, which he described as people who don’t pay taxes, are the millionaires supporting Romney. And among that 47 percent, which he described as parasites feeding off government, are military, teachers, police, firefighters and seniors, lots and lots of them.

On Fox News, Romney said Thursday that had Obama raised the “47 percent” comment, he would have responded: “Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”

Not an outright apology, but close enough.

Then Tin Man started to try to melt undecided voters’ hearts. “And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”

Better be. There are at least 16 million seniors (Romney’s white, elderly base) who would fall into that 47 percent because they don’t pay taxes thanks to a tax code that exempts them. Skip on.

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