There is a simple debating strategy when answering attacks: "Backward-step-pivot-forward." First, put up a robust defense -- defend your positions thoroughly (backward-step). And second, figure out how to turn your potential weakness into strength. In other words, start with defense and then attempt to make that same issue part of your offense (pivot-forward).
Who accomplished that in the first debate? Mitt Romney. He is especially good at the "pivot-forward" part of this formula. On the topic of jobs and the private sector, Romney was attacked in the debate on two counts. First, rivals said being a "manager" is not the same as being the commander in chief and running a country. However, Romney answered by stating that business leaders are not just managers. They are leaders. (Notice the pivot?)
At the beginning of the [second] debate, it looked as though everyone had taken advice to be more aggressive toward Romney. There was a unified focus by Santorum, Paul, and Newt Gingrich to hammer away at Romney and not let him off the hook.
For a while, it was effective (especially on Romney being a career politician), and I thought Romney would be in real trouble. Remember, this was Romney's best point in the first debate (his private sector leadership) and the other candidates were not going to let him score on that point again.
But then they lost steam. After the first series of questions, the challenges to Romney disappeared. Why? Either the other candidates stopped the direct attacks because they were worried about overcorrecting, appearing rude, and alienating voters (Gingrich came close when he told Romney to "drop the pious baloney") -- or in the heat of the moment, they forgot their coaching once the second debate was under way (which I can assure you from experience happens way too often).
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Romney in Debate
At CNN, debate coach Todd Graham appraises Romney's performance in the weekend debates.