So other than the fading echoes of Republican celebration and Democratic angst from last night’s presidential debate, and the wait we will now have to endure to see if it made any tangible difference in the contest, what should we actually carry away from the event?
I’ve already confessed myself a non-expert on the “visuals,” and on the “energy level” of the candidates, because I honestly don’t give a damn about any of that. What Mitt Romney needed to do last night, however, was relatively clear: reintroduce himself to swing voters as someone other than a distant plutocrat, and fill in the gaping holes (of omission and commission) in his policy agenda. With quite a bit of help from Barack Obama, he achieved both of those goals, at least temporarily, and in that respect he “won.”
But it came at a price. Jonathan Bernstein summed it up nicely last night at WaPo:
Romney’s policy positions are even more of a shambles now than they were previously. Romney’s position, over and over again, is to simply bluff it on policy. His tax plan continues to be the most obvious one, but it really happens across the board. Romney insisted tonight more than once that his tax plan will keep taxes the same for the wealthy, cut them for everyone else, and not add to the deficit. Forget about the Tax Policy Center; just that much is obviously incoherent and impossible. And, more to the point, it’s clear he’s going to keep on insisting that it adds up, no matter how clearly it doesn’t. But it’s not just that; on every policy, he’s just going to insist that the consequences of his plans that anyone might not like simply don’t exist, so that he’s for sweeping spending cuts but insists that no particular program that anyone brings up might lose any funding, or that he’s for repealing Obamacare but those with pre-existing conditions will magically be protected.
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