CHARLOTTE — Raising expectations for your opponent ahead of a debate is an ancient political art, and a supremely confident Obama team almost pulled it off on Tuesday.
“Gov. Romney did about 30 debates last year, we expect him to do very well,” Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said at an ABC News/Yahoo forum here Tuesday. But his grin was so broad as he delivered the line that the audience broke out in laughter.
Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said Obama was “looking forward to the debates” as a means to force Romney to expand on his vague policy proposals in more detail.
“Mitt Romney’s been running for president for six years but he’s waiting until the very end — or maybe never — to put flesh on the bones and some details behind his platitudes and policies,” she said. “I think when he’s standing on the stage next to the president, he’s going to have to put some details out there about how he’s going to pay for that $5 trillion tax cut, how he’s going to end the war in Afghanistan, what he means when he criticizes the president for not being tough on Iran.”
Cutter had one word for how she feels about the president’s chances of winning re-election in November: “confident.”
Obama and Romney will participate in three debates in October; Paul Ryan and Joe Biden will face off in one. Obama is preparing by using Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as his practice sparring partner.
Romney is holed up in Vermont this week to shore up his own debate skills using Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) as a stand-in for the president.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.