The media consensus is that Mitt Romney won Wednesday’s presidential debate handily. Apparently the debate took place in an alternate universe where facts and reality are irrelevant, and one can win despite having no grasp of either. Regardless, in the media echo chamber, Romney won by lying convincingly and with energy.
And conservatives and liberals alike are still wondering how and why the president was so timid, and did not hold Romney’s feet to the fire when the candidate blatantly lied and flip flopped. It was such a poor performance that one has to wonder if the Obama campaign had their eye on a different sparring match: the war of campaign ads.
Obama for America released an ad first thing Thursday morning slamming Romney for his dishonest debate performance. The first of undoubtedly many of its kind, the ad accused Romney of refusing to level with the American people on the details of his tax plan. This was a reference to Romney’s denial of planning to lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans, despite his earlier declarations. Romney made no mentions of his plan to do away with capital gains tax, advocated for hiring more teachers, vowed to cut funding for PBS and defended his Massachusetts healthcare initiative in a weird, deflective way.
There’s no doubt that all of those debate moments are coming soon to a tv near you – if you’re in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania. So was that the plan? Did Obama refrain from attacking Romney’s blatant falsehoods so that the candidate couldn’t backtrack into more reasonable – or at least more consistent – territory? Was Obama’s strategy to stand back and allow Romney to become more manic and mendacious while his campaign spliced together debate footage in real time?
It’s true that political attack ads featuring debate footage will likely be viewed by more swing state voters – and far more times – than the actual debates, which garnered 67 million viewers country-wide. And with debates having a historic lack of influence on presidential elections, especially when compared with ubiquitous political ads, this could have been a calculated risk.
Barring a Romney-sized leak of the inner-workings of the Obama campaign, no one will no for certain whether or not the campaign decided to sacrifice a week of the media cycle to gather a lethal amount of damning Romney footage, but it’s certainly a possibility. After all, more absurd things have happened in post Citizens United politics.