When Romney trounced Obama

(CNN)The sheer panic Democrats felt in 2012 after Mitt Romney demolished Barack Obama at their first presidential debate in Denver can’t be overstated.

It wasn’t one of those classic debate gaffes: Richard Nixon mopping his sweaty brow; Michael Dukakis’s robotic response to whether he’d favor the death penalty if someone raped and murdered his wife; or George H.W. Bush checking his watch; or even Al Gore’s audible sighs.

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With Obama, it was more nuanced. The usually witty and at times-electrifying President who could fire up a crowd better than anyone was confined to a stage he did not want to be on — and viewers saw that immediately.
The cacophony of Democratic criticism of Obama’s performance was intense, and his advisers were blunt in their assessment of his performance. The only way out of the hole he had created was practice. Advisers worked with him on finding the right tone — sounding less defensive; showing passion about how his policies had translated into helping people; and steering him away from sounding like Professor Obama — honing his points so they were crisp, clear, concise. And in the end, he won the race convincingly.

What lessons can Clinton learn?

As the Clinton campaign prepares for their matchup with Donald Trump, they clearly trying to avoid any mistakes of that kind.
Holed up in a hotel room near her home in Chappaqua, Clinton has delved into the kind of cramming that she does best.
She has carefully anticipated the factually inaccurate arguments that Trump has used on the trail, preparing to fact check him in real time. She is ready with specifics on what he said during the primaries to guard against any attempt at shape-shifting to a more moderate version of himself.
Trump’s debate prep has been serious, but more informal. Advisers close to the real estate magnate said he has been formulating his answers through in-depth talks about the issues with allies like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and General Michael Flynn.
His advisers expect him to be cool and composed, but ready with fierce counterpunches when Clinton attacks. (His flirtation with inviting Gennifer Flowers to sit in the front row via Twitter may have only been the beginning, one Trump confidant hinted).
Facing an unpredictable Trump, former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Clinton’s main task must be to execute her strategy “and not define success based on whether Trump melts down on stage.”
“She wins by seeming calm, collected and presidential — by not getting sucked into Trump’s absurdity,” said Pfeiffer, a CNN contributor.
With Romney’s shape-shifting in mind, Axelrod noted that Clinton has to be be equally ready to take on both the outrageous Trump and the presidential Trump.
If he uses the stage to try to redefine himself, shed policy positions or express remorse for past statements, Axelrod said, “then her task is going to be to remind people of the voluminous evidence to the contrary.”
“She’s going to be a tougher opponent than he’s ever faced,” the former Obama adviser noted. “And he’ll be a stranger opponent than she’s ever faced.”

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/25/politics/obama-debate-election-2012/index.html

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