Romney Thinks He Can Win The Debate With “Zingers”

Following up on my post about debate expectations earlier today, I thought this line from an article about the candidate’s debate preparation in The New York Times was apropos:

Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.

Zingers? Seriously? Perhaps I’m overstating, but it seems like these guys think they’re still preparing for a primary debate where candidate’s have a limited amount of time to respond and the candidate who gets off the best one liner could guarantee him at least some coverage in the following day’s news cycle. That’s not how Presidential debates work, which I would think Romney’s advisers would know. And as for making the President appear smug, well so far the President has been the one who’s succeeded in making Mitt Romney appear smug.

This debate is Mitt Romney’s chance to start turning this campaign around. If he bombs, it could very well be the end of his chance at victory. What, exactly, is he bringing to the game?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    Surely this is disinformation.

  2. Ed in NJ says:

    The only thing left for Romney is to somehow rile “the base” and convince them that he’s not some incompetent boob. And to do that he needs to attack. Unfortunately for him, it’s going to make him look like a dick and alienate the very small number of undecideds who are watching the debate closely. He really is boxed into a corner.

  3. Peacewood says:

    Maybe I’m alone on this, but it’s not a horrible strategy. Prepared zingers helped Gore smash Kemp in the VP debates of 96, fr ex.

    Now if he is banking on zingers, and zingers alone, to carry the day, yeah, that’s stupid. But they might give him a needed lift.

  4. That’s not how Presidential debates work, which I would think Romney’s advisers would know.

    Even if that was how they worked, you have to consider your candidate. Staking the election on Romney’s improv comedy abilities seems insane.

  5. Gustopher says:

    Ok, now I expect Romney to be funny in the debate. And, when he isn’t, I will be disappointed.

    (Actually, I expect more awkward humor…)

  6. ratufa says:

    There he goes again. Perhaps he thinks he can exploit for political purposes his opponent’s youth and inexperience. But, as Doug points out, “Where’s the beef?”

  7. mantis says:

    They truly believe Reagan won the election with “there you go again,” and can duplicate it. They seem to have missed the fact that Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan, and Reagan had a lot more going for him than a zinger.

  8. Fiona says:

    Zingers? Wasn’t that the Sarah Palin strategy? Is he going to wink when he delivers them?

    Romney can’t even deliver a decent joke. I don’t know why his team thinks that he’s going to be able to deliver zingers without looking ridiculous. At least Palin could pull it off, but Romneyblacks sufficient mean girl cred.

  9. News footage of Mitt Romney visiting a school to practice his zingers ahead of the debate:

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/383452/the-xj-212-funnybot

  10. john personna says:

    @Peacewood:

    I think that if Obama is serious and pragmatic, and he can be, then the smart alec with the zingers comes off badly. Zingers work best as counter-attacks, and Obama never needs to be the attacker. He can just talk steadily about progress and professionalism.

    Possibly Obama will be trying some low key things that don’t seem like attacks, but which his teams thinks will unhinge Romney. That would be the “Slowly I Turned” gambit.

  11. PJ says:

    @Gustopher:

    Ok, now I expect Romney to be funny in the debate.

    But he has been funny, don’t you remember him singing “America the Beautiful”? Comedy classic!
    Or his stick about the the perfect height of trees? Seinfeldesque!

  12. anjin-san says:

    Reagan had a lot more going for him than a zinger.

    Yea, Reagan had that whole talent, personality, political instincts thing going. Sorry Mitt, you are no Ronald Reagan.

  13. ptfe says:

    @Fiona: If he asks Obama if he can call him “Barack”, you’ll know what’s up. To this end, I offer the following free zingtastic ideas:

    – “This economy is sinking like Barack!”
    – “I may be down in the polls, but it’s easy to catch Barack if you remember your Mitt!”

    May the best zinger win.

  14. Jr says:

    Romney already sounds like a used car salesman, so I don’t see how zingers help his low favorability numbers.

  15. stonetools says:

    There’s a hash tag #MittZingers on Twitter. Somehow I don’t think the suggestions there will help.
    Three:

    #MittZingers “A fascist, a communist, and a socialist walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Hi Barack!”

    I’m rubber you’re glue! #Mittzingers
    4
    You know what I’ll do if I become President? Take a pay cut. Kidding! #MittZingers

  16. Herb says:

    It’s no surprise that Romney thinks he can win on zingers. His supporters are huge believers in the power of the zinger. Indeed, it’s so pervasive (and ineffective) that the GOP’s strategy since 2008 could be called “The Death by a 1000 Zingers.”

    It’ll work….eventually.

  17. mattb says:

    Its clear he’s counting on the fact that most people will be exposed to the debate through soundbites. It’s a cynical strategy, but not a bad one. Basically he’s hoping to create news bait and a campaign commercial.

    And, trust me, the major media would love to see a good Romney zinger as it would change the narrative of the debates and make more news. Because, given the direction of the polls, this election could easily turn into a sleeper for them.

    That said, I don’ know if Romney has the chops to pull of the zinger correctly — see the famous “You’re no Jack Kennedy” or “Where’s the Beef>” for it done right. It as likely that Romney might crack himself up as he delivers the zinger, thus defeating some of the value.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    There’s nothing more convincing than a zinger you’ve been practicing for weeks.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Romney can be quite funny…sadly, for him, we are often left laughing at him and not with him…

  20. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @stonetools: Can you smell what Barack is cooking?

  21. labman57 says:

    Zingers? Perhaps Romney will follow the lead of some right wing bloggers and make derisive remarks about Obama’s mamma.

    Or perhaps Mitt will head the advice given by Gingrich:
    If you don’t like the question or don’t know the answer, behave indignantly and insult the person asking the question, and then give a stump speech on an unrelated topic.

  22. JohnMcC says:

    The best of that genre was delivered by Wm F Buckley who was running as the Conservative Party candidate for Mayor of New York City against John Lindsey who was the Republican candidate. Asked what would be his first action as Mayor if he was the winner, Mr Buckley instantly replied, “Demand a recount.”

    Not even Reagan was that sharp.

  23. bk says:

    “Take my wife…which one?”

  24. Kylopod says:

    see the famous “You’re no Jack Kennedy”

    Of course, that example highlights the important point that zingers, even at their best, aren’t enough to turn around a hopeless campaign.

  25. labman57 says:

    Alas, this is a debate, not amateur night at the local comedy club.

    Maybe Mitt will follow up his shtick with some “fancy pageant walking …”

  26. Carol says:

    Why would anyone with even an average IQ buy into this bull? Obama is not very smart and Romney has a much better record of accomplishments and can verbalize intelligent and cognizant thoughts without a TelePrompTer. Give me a break.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Obama is not very smart and Romney has a much better record of accomplishments and can verbalize intelligent and cognizant thoughts without a TelePrompTer. Give me a break.

    With comments like that, you prove that the President is smarter than you…

  28. Mr. Replica says:

    @Carol:

    Sure, Romney may be articulate and intelligent. I will give him that.

    It’s just a shame that all that ability to speak well and say what he wants to say is being used to push a load of bullshit that no one is buying. Outside of the sentence, “I am not Obama.” Mitt being articulate has landed him in hot water more often than not this election season, forgetting to add Afghanistan into his convention speech, or his word salads that he likes to throw out when ever he gets asked about all his previous stances on the issues. Or even the whole airplane window thing.

    To act as if Romney does not need teleprompters or does not need them as much as Obama is neither here nor there. In fact this whole teleprompter-gate that has been ginned up by the Obama haters is rather stale and sad(Just like the whole 57 state thing, which happened what? 4 years ago? Which get’s used EVERY TIME a republican makes a gaffe present day.)
    If you think you are smarter than the president, any president. I welcome you to stand up in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people to read 10 – 30 minute speech WITHOUT a teleprompter. Oh, and you have to make sure you connect with everyone in attendance , get your message across, and NOT stray off of it.

    I’m sure that as long as someone hates a president it really does not matter what that POTUS does. ANYTHING will be used as ammo. If Obama memorized an entire hour long speech, didn’t stumble once, and had every one at the venue going apeshit when he finished. I have zero doubt that people would complain that Obama had the time to memorized a speech of that length, while he should have being doing X,Y, and Z. And then when he went back to using the teleprompter, he would be mocked again for it.

    So to anyone out there that wants the take up the teleprompter meme like it makes a difference one way or another. I’m sure if it wasn’t teleprompters, then it would be something else. And if it wasn’t something else, then I am sure you would find something other than that something else. Just like how it was with Bush, and Clinton, and Bush, and Reagan, and Carter, and Ford…

    Don’t like a president for his foreign policy? fine with me.
    Don’t like a president for his stance on abortion? fine with me.
    Don’t like a president for his stance on taxes? fine with me.
    Don’t like a president’s use of teleprompters? seriously, grow up.

  29. mark says:

    R U a Zinger voter? If so, chances are that you also are an aggressive driver, a queue jumper, and a Republican.

  30. Me Me Me says:

    TINA FEY: “Can I call you, ‘Joe?'”

    JASON SUDEIKIS: “Of course.”

    FEY: “OK, ’cause I practiced a couple of zingers where I call you Joe.”

  31. Michael Robinson says:

    @Carol:

    Why would anyone with even an average IQ buy into this bull? Obama is not very smart and Romney has a much better record of accomplishments and can verbalize intelligent and cognizant thoughts without a TelePrompTer. Give me a break.

    Oh, yes. Please, please, please let that be the Romney debate strategy.

    Just a reminder:
    what happened to that strategy last time around

  32. Mr. Prosser says:

    Zingers. Will they have a drummer ready to do rim shots hiding in the wings?

  33. C. Clavin says:

    So if I’m Obama, the first zinger that comes out, I say:

    “…Is that one of those zigers you’ve been practicing for 6 weeks?…”

  34. C. Clavin says:

    Zingers, not zigers.
    Where’s my damn edit button?

  35. C. Clavin says:

    “…Obama is not very smart…”

    Pot, meet IKettle.

  36. MBunge says:

    You know, I’ve dismissed the repeated comments in OTB thread about Romney having Alzheimer’s or Romney having brain damage from some accident. If he’s actually got to spend A COUPLE OF MONTHS practicing debate “zingers”, I may need to reconsider that.

    Mike

  37. Me Me Me says:

    @MBunge: When you embrace the brain damage theory, everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – makes sense.

    Here is Ann Romney sending out her latest warning to the nation: Mitt would be mightily taxed by the demands of the job he wants – and Ann doesn’t even bother to say that she thinks he can handle it:
    mitts-mental-well-being-would-be-her-biggest-concern-if-elected

  38. Graham says:

    This probably isn’t a good thing for Romney, but one effect of this strategy is that I will get a six pack and watch the debate.

    Watching a debate between a rational Governor Romney and Obama would be boring. A debate between President Obama and Candidate Romney would be pointless. But a debate between the president and a old, rich, teetotaler who’s got a quiver of canned “zingers”? Oh man.

  39. Tillman says:

    It’s normally standard operating procedure for me to get drunk for presidential debates, but I think I might have to go somewhere dark for this set, like taking up a heroin habit.

  40. jukeboxgrad says:

    clavin:

    There’s nothing more convincing than a zinger you’ve been practicing for weeks.

    Yes, exactly. Mitt’s biggest problem is that he acts like a robot, so he’s spending a lot of time rehearsing how to be spontaneous.

    Related: if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.