By Donna Brazille, Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
Politics. At times, we all get tired of politics.
Politicians, partisanship and spin. Even pundits like myself can get tired of defending the indefensible and making sense of the nonsensical. And “jabberwocky” has more truth than most talking points.
I get annoyed with the media preference for melodrama, especially when it turns otherwise rational people into Chicken Little panic-bots.
After a less-than-stellar debate performance, some Democrats decided they must be desperate. But being frustrated with President Obama follows the media’s playbook, which is part of Mitt Romney’s game plan. But, to continue the analogy, the Democrats have a superior, agile quarterback and a much better game plan.
Polls repeatedly demonstrate that Democrats at all levels strongly support the president. Yet after Obama’s debate fumble, a handful of progressive bloggers began crying, “The sky is falling!” This is exactly the same refrain Romney heard from the majority of Republican professionals for weeks. Ann Romney felt compelled to make a public plea: “Stop. This is hard.” Peggy Noonan, a Republican columnist for The Wall Street Journal, called Romney’s campaign “a rolling calamity” just six days before the debate.
It’s a rare game without a turnover. And campaigns often require course corrections.
The Romney campaign went through the political equivalent of a fumbling turnover a week ago. It will do so again. And Obama has been through this before. Remember August 2008? Democratic professionals were thrashing Obama for not hitting the McCain campaign hard enough. Obama agreed, and came out swinging.
Not surprisingly, the elite media fell for Romney’s latest spin — that his 2-point rise in the polls is earth-shaking. I say “not surprisingly” because reporters have unabashedly allowed themselves to be manipulated by Romney’s strategists. As Politico columnist Roger Simon wrote: “When Barack Obama was up by 4 percentage points in the polls, the media said the race was a dead heat ... Now that Obama is down by 4 percentage points in the polls, the media say he is dead meat.”
No one plays the political game without sustaining injuries, (though most are self-inflicted — ask Romney and Biden). Every so-called gaffe makes headlines and candidates’ words are taken out of context and used to fit an existing narrative.
Obama is a competitor who came out of the cauldron of Chicago politics. News professionals and opponents who gloss over his Chicago toughness grossly underestimate him.
The polls show this race remains highly volatile. It can change on a dime. The real news story after the first debate is that the race remains within polling error — a dead heat. Obama’s slip was only that: a slip — not a fall.
Internal polls show that Obama has not lost supporters to Romney. The debate did cause some independents to take a second look at Romney; they’re still wary of him, though, and still not quite ready to pull the lever for either candidate.
The National Journal quoted Obama’s Ohio statewide chairman, state Sen. Eric Kearney, that Obama’s post-debate handling “(has) been a healthy exercise in how to regain enthusiasm and momentum. There is now a renewed spirit to pull the oar.” Kearney added, “The question I hear everywhere is ‘What more can we do?’”
After the debate, volunteers flooded headquarters across Ohio in greater numbers than before. The “It’s in the bag” mentality vanished, and people began to feel as needed as they did in 2008.
A handful of liberal dissidents want Obama to focus on Romney’s dishonesty. But remember what happened during the GOP primary, especially in Florida. Newt Gingrich grew increasingly frustrated with the onslaught of negative ads sponsored by Romney’s super PAC allies. He even called media attention to Romney’s campaign character, using the word “liar” on CBS and CNN. The media shrugged. Rick Santorum, a devoutly religious man, held a news conference to say Romney was “lying to the American people” about his Massachusetts health care plan. Santorum got nowhere with the truth. The media didn’t follow up. Nailing Romney on his fabrications is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.
President Obama has to do two things to regain momentum: First, he needs to get tough with Romney on his many distortions of Obama’s record, press Romney on his flip-flopping and pin him down on specifics. The list of issues where Romney has planted his feet firmly on both sides of the fence is overwhelming. Romney has engaged in so many twists and turns, he could attend a Halloween party dressed as a corkscrew.
But President Obama must also talk to the American people, explaining how the next four years will be different. What now? The good news is more Americans perceive the president as honest and trustworthy.
Can we give President Obama a little time to exhale? Obama, be yourself. Give your innate optimism and idealism full reign.