It may seem impossible these days, but it wasn’t that long ago that Mitt Romney and his supporters were promising daily that when the former Massachusetts governor met the incumbent president in the ring, Romney would mop the floor with Obama.
In recent days both presidential campaigns have gone to an awful lot of trouble to lower expectations for Wednesday’s debate in Denver, which Mitt Romney supporters hope can reverse their fortunes in the polls.
On Sunday, President Obama became the latest to lower the bar, following the lead of his campaign. “Governor Romney, he’s a good debater,” Obama said in Las Vegas. “I’m just okay.”
It’s odd to hear either campaign drop all the talk about how great their candidate is at everything in favor of what an inexperienced amateur on the debate stage he is, but it’s especially weird coming out of the Romney team.
During the primary race, Newt Gingrich rose to frontrunner status in part due to a belief among Republican voters that Gingrich was a virtuoso behind the podium, just a few Lincoln-Douglas style debates away from handily defeating Obama. It was all of a piece with the base Republican belief that Obama has never been properly vetted and that a rhetorical roundhouse to his glass jaw will reveal the shattering truth.
Romney pushed back on Gingrich’s boasting at the time, promising that he himself was the one with the skills and message to expose Obama on a debate stage. In almost polar opposition to the Romney rhetoric of today, the messaging throughout the primary fight with Gingrich served to continually raise expectations for Romney’s ability to take on Obama in a debate, not lower them.
TPM’s Michael Lester compiled this reel of Romney promising to handily defeat Obama on the debate stage during the primary fight with Gingrich and through the summer after he won the nomination.