Does this seem like a smart move to you? I ask because I can see about a half dozen ways it could go terribly wrong.
President Obama has tapped Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to play Republican Mitt Romney in mock debate rehearsals, Obama campaign officials and the senator’s office confirmed Monday.
Kerry will help Obama prepare for among the most consequential events of his reelection campaign — the three fall debates against Romney. As the senior senator from Massachusetts, Kerry has studied Romney’s career and campaign style for nearly two decades and has first-hand knowledge of his record as governor.
Okay, it makes sense for the President to bring someone in who has clear command of Mitt Romney’s record and campaign style (though, to be honest, Kerry has no better insight into Romney’s recent campaign work than, say, John McCain). On the other hand, if the Obama people truly believe this, then they’re in deep, deep trouble.
Kerry has long been considered one of the Democratic Party’s most skilled debaters, and his performances in more than 25 debates in the 2004 race earned plaudits. Some credited his strong debates against President George W. Bush with tightening the race in the closing weeks of the 2004 campaign.
Now I remember the 2004 campaign and John Kerry did not clean George Bush’s clock with any regularity at all during any of the three debates. As “one of the Democratic Party’s most skilled debaters” he should have, considering that the MSM spent 8 years characterizing President Bush as a stumble-tongued buffoon. You do remember that persistent meme, don’t you? I sure as heck do.
The truth is, George Bush’s approval rating dropped below 50 percent right before the election and Kerry couldn’t put him away despite the concerted MSM push predicted by Newsweek’s editor Evan Thomas (an example of which you can see here). The most memorable part of any of the 2004 debates had nothing to do with John Kerry but with a suspicious bulge. No one can remember one memorable thing Kerry said during a Presidential debate and he sure as heck wasn’t trumpeting his rhetorical superiority over Chimpy McHitlerBurton in the days preceding Election Day.
I suspect there are two reasons the Obama team has tapped Kerry to spar with the President. First, Kerry fits the stereotype the left has of Mitt Romney — an out of touch rich white guy from the northeast — like he was born to it, which, come to think of it, he was. Second, Kerry will put on a good show but he knows his place and won’t do much to really push the President in rehearsal. As we’ve seen over and over again, Barack Obama can’t take a political punch. There is no chance his campaign team will bring in a sparring partner who can or will draw blood in a practice debate. Those are fine reasons to bring in a stiff if your guy is on the top of his game and has the drive to stay there, but Barack Obama is not the orator we were told he is and his Eye of the Tiger is more the Jaw of Glass Joe. John Kerry won’t make him a better debater. In fact, he may just make him worse.
(Graphic from Charles Williams’ Flickr site)
Category: The 2012 Horse Race