Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Time to Try the "Romney Is Lying" Debate Strategy

You're getting sleepy...

One of the triumphs of Mitt Romney's performance in the first debate was that he told an enormous number of outright falsehoods (see here) with virtually no response from Obama, or at least no effective response. So one of Obama's challenges tomorrow night—perhaps the key challenge—is how to handle it when Romney says things that aren't true. What he can't do is what he did in the first debate, offer a muttering response filled with details and failing to emphasize his central point.

I realize there's at least some chance that the President is too busy to be reading this blog today. But just in case, let me offer a suggestion. What Obama needs is a set of responses that cover the topic at hand, but that all follow a single theme. He needs, to put it bluntly, a single phrase that he will repeat every time he's refuting a Romney falsehood. It could be something slogan-y, like "That's another Romney Reinvention," or could be something simple, like "Once again, Governor Romney thinks he can fool you and get away with it." It almost doesn't matter what it is, so long as he repeats it every time. The repetition acts as a signal to the viewers, linking that particular part of the debate to what they've already heard. This would not only make Romney's deceptions the headline of post-debate analyses, it would also probably freak Romney out a bit during the debate. As long as Romney knows that Obama's reaction to anything he says is going to be some weak, "Well, I'm going to take issue with you there," Romney can forge confidently on ahead, since people watching will have no idea who's telling the truth. But if he's wondering whether what he had planned to say on a particular topic is going to play right into Obama's hands and send him deeper down a hole Obama has dug for him, he won't be nearly so bold.

True the Vote's True Agenda

(AP Photo/Matt Houston)

This is the second and final part of our series on True the Vote. Check out our earlier piece on just how effective the group will—or won't—be on election day. 

Mon, Oct. 15 Electoral Vote Predictor

Obama Leads in Early Voting

Early voting has started in over 40 states and 7 percent of the voters have already cast their ballots. These votes have broken strongly for President Obama, 59 percent to 31 percent, according to a new Ipsos poll.

Both campaigns are urging their supporters to vote early because a vote banked early can't change, even if the candidate stumbles later. Typically, strong partisans are the ones who vote early. Fence sitters tend to wait until the last minute.

Click here for full story

Sat, Oct. 13 Electoral Vote Predictor

Another Poll Shows Biden Won the Vice-Presidential Debate

An Ipsos poll released yesterday gave Joe Biden a victory over Paul Ryan of 42 percent to 35 percent, with the rest undecided. Biden also won the CBS snap poll 50 percent to 31 percent but lost the CNN snap poll 44 percent to 48 percent. So the bottom line seems to be that Biden had two large wins and one small loss among the three major polls of the debate.

Click here for full story

Laughing All the Way

The most pressing question that Joe Biden faced, heading into Thursday night’s debate, was a tricky one: How do you handle an opponent who’s going to be lying his well-defined buttocks off for 90 minutes? The lack of a strategy for dealing with serial dishonesty had left President Obama dumbfounded in his first debate with Mitt Romney. He shouldn't have been taken aback: The Republican ticket-mates know perfectly well that being honest about their policies and platform would make it impossible for them to win a general election. You can’t advocate deficit-reduction and a $5 billion tax cut and a few extra billion in defense spending and be up front about what all that would actually mean—or whether it’s even mathematically possible.

Does Mitt Romney Want to Raise Taxes on the Wealthy?

Mitt Romney, not sharing with job creators what he's really proposing to do to them.

At last night's debate, the mathematical impossibility of the Romney tax plan came up, just as it did during the first Obama-Romney debate, and just as it surely will in the second Obama-Romney debate on Tuesday. The real problem with Romney's proposal, though, isn't just that it's mathematically impossible, but that it's logically strange in one important way nobody seems to have noticed yet, namely that Romney seems to be proposing big tax increases for the wealthy. I'll get to why that is in a minute, but before I do let's review the problem. Since Kevin Drum gave a nice explanation, I'll just steal it:

Watching the Debate with Paul Ryan's Constituents

Patrick Caldwell

The debate got off to a bumpy start, with the bartender struggling to sync the audio between each of the bar's four TVs. City Haul Lounge in Racine, Wisconsin isn't the type of drinking hole where you'd typically find a crowd straining to hear politicians gab. A dive bar in the true Midwestern sense, City Haul is the sort of place with an unironic Pabst Blue Ribbon sign on the side of the building, a place for cheap drinks and few frills, with mixed drinks served in small clear plastic cups. Yet on Thursday night, a dedicated contingent from Paul Ryan's home district trekked past the old warehouse across the street to this small bar to watch the debate, and they didn't need crystal-clear audio to know their opinions on Ryan.

"Yes Joe! Fuck you Ryan!" one middle-aged, slender woman wearing a black blazer shouted as she kneeled on a barstool, flipping her congressman the middle finger as he walked onto the debate stage. I was at City Haul for a viewing party hosted by Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO that attempts to bring nonunionized workers of a similar stripe into the movement.


Keep talking, buddy. I'm coming for you.

We all know that vice-presidential debates don't matter, or at least that's what we knew until last night. This one, however, may turn out to matter quite a bit, even if it doesn't produce any major movement in the polls, for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: it has already made despondent Democrats feel a lot better. They wanted to see their guy aggressively take on the other side, and that's exactly what they got. Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos probably spokr for most Democrats when he wrote, "Tonight felt great, didn't it?...we base liberals are happy again, which means we'll be productive bees because no matter what some of you claim, no one likes to work hard for the team that is 10 points down (or feels that way)."

Conservatives, on the other hand, are unanimous in their judgment that Biden was overbearing and mean. Last night on Fox, Brit Hume called him "a cranky old man." "Biden Bombed," reads the Fred Barnes piece on the Weekly Standard. "Classless Joe," says the National Review. They aren't completely wrong—Biden certainly interrupted Ryan more than was necessary, and could have dialed back the smiling and head-shaking a bit. But his unrelenting aggressiveness was just what Democrats wanted to see, and will no doubt spur President Obama to try to avoid looking somnolent by comparison.

The second reason the VP debate matters is that it sets the stage for the final two presidential debates in an important substantive way.

Nailing Jell-O to the Wall

Biden did a lot better than his president did in the first debate. But Obama still needs to hammer home all of the inconsistencies and evasions in the Romney-Ryan positions on such key issues as Social Security, Medicare, and taxation.

Between moderator Martha Raddatz’s questioning and the vice-president’s persistence, the viewer just about grasped that the Romney-Ryan arithmetic was entirely bogus when the Republicans claim that there were $5 trillion worth of loopholes that can be closed to pay for new tax cuts without cutting programs, giving further breaks to the rich, or increasing the deficit.

But Biden did not quite demand in so many words:

Which loopholes would you close?

What would they add up to?

White House High Rollers

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

When George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, he assembled a fundraising effort more effective than any the country had ever seen. During the primary campaign, Bush's fundraising approached $100 million, an unprecedented total many at the time found utterly mind-boggling. Yet just eight years later, Barack Obama's campaign raised $191 million in the month of September alone. This year's September haul for Obama was $181 million.

The Vice-Presidential Face-Off, GIF-ified

Raddatz, right out the gate:


Ryan gives props to Beau Biden.




"Let's move on to another war." :(


Biden is a real-time, one-man fact-checking team.



Revenge of the Biden

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“This is like the Avengers, when the Hulk grabbed Loki and smashed him on the floor.”

I watched this debate in Chesapeake, Virginia, with a group of local Democrats, and it’s fair to say that they were excited by Vice President Biden’s performance in tonight’s debate. They cheered his jabs—“This is malarkey”—and cheered when he directly attacked Paul Ryan for his rhetoric.

In other words, if Biden’s job was to cover for President Obama and rebuild Democratic enthusiasm, then he accomplished it with flying colors. From foreign policy to Medicare to taxes and national security, Biden defended the administration’s policies and offered a strong retort to claims from Paul Ryan and the Romney campaign.

In This Corner...

Vice-presidential debates often make for better TV than the more sober presidential face-offs. (If you’re not convinced, take a look at the Prospect’s video compilation of the best moments from the VP debates.) There’s been nothing in a presidential debate to match the delightful absurdity of a candidate—in this case, Ross Perot’s addled running mate, Admiral James Stockdale—introducing himself to millions of viewers by posing the existential puzzler, “Why am I here?” There’s never been a slapdown in the main events to equal the iconic moment when Lloyd Bentsen punished Dan Quayle like a naughty schoolboy for likening himself to JFK.

Memo to Joe, Re: Debate


FROM: Robert Reich

RE: Debate

Beware: Paul Ryan will appear affable. He’s less polished and aggressive than Romney, even soft-spoken. And he acts as if he’s saying reasonable things.

But under the surface he’s a right-wing zealot. And nothing he says or believes is reasonable—neither logical nor reflecting the values of the great majority of Americans.

Your job is to smoke Ryan out, exposing his fanaticism. The best way to do this is to force him to take responsibility for the regressive budget he created as chairman of the House Budget Committee.