Ed to Barack: “call me maybe?”

4th October, 2012 7:01 am

Well. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Mitt Romney and Ed Milband were this week’s clear winners with an appeal to the squeezed middle, a forcefulness of personality and an ease of style when handling substance.

Simply put, Ed and Mitt were the ones who told stories; Obama spoke of stats. As such he didn’t connect with his audience and thus all his trademark logic of old was as nought to Romney’s colloquial cut through.

While the data tells us that the debates actually have a very limited effect on voting intentions and Obama’s lock on the electoral college remains secure, looking at what happened a few hours ago is instructive.

Weighed down by four years of emersion in policy and used to interaction with subordinate staffers the President is likely more used to deference then a debate of equals and so the political athlete who rocked the world four years ago was missing tonight. This was the same problem Reagan faced in ’84, George H.W. Bush in ’92 and George W. Bush in ’04. But before panic sets in its worth noting that in two out of those three examples the incumbent President rebounded to win.

A key error was the Oppo arsenal the President left untouched. Romney’s 47% remarks, the false claim of $700bn of Medicare cuts, the Paul Ryan budget’s privatization of public pensions – all went unfired. Contrast that with Ed’s no-holds-barred, all-out assault on the Tories.

Obama’s performance tonight shows the danger of sitting on a lead and playing defence. Ed knew that this week and, ignoring his 10 point lead cast caution to the wind and went on the offensive with his bold claim of One Nation Labour delivered via the high stakes gamble of a no-notes hour-plus speech. Obama in contrast hugging his Ohio lead decided to bank his advantages and play to run down the clock.

And look at the result. As both Hillary and David can bitterly attest from 2008 and 2010 the scrappy insurgent against the complacent front runner is a winning play. Team Ed knows that. Team Romney knows that and you can be sure Obama master strategist David Plouffe who literally wrote the book on that knows it too.

Come the next debate Professor Obama must be retired so Candidate Obama can cut through. Ed showed this week how a top class political athlete can win by being gutsy. Time for Barack to call him and learn how even the President of the United States can “speak human”.

Marcus Roberts is Deputy General Secretary of he Fabian Society


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  • AlanGiles

    Would it be possible, please to have a moratorium on that hackneyed phrase
    “the squeezed middle”?.

    Together with “affordable” it is one of
    the most pointless terms ever intrduced.

    • And “sustainable”.

      • PeterBarnard

        Another example is “wealth creators,” Jim C.

    • And “sustainable”.

  • PeterBarnard

    Marcus Roberts,

    I think that “an appeal to the squeezed middle” is exactly what EdM’s speech was not about. As I remark on another page, by definition “One Nation” is wholly inclusive.

    “A vision of a Britain where patriotism, loyalty dedication to the common cause courses through the veins of all and nobody feels left out.”

    “One Nation : a country where everyone has a stake. One Nation : a country where prosperity is fairly shared. One Nation : where we have a shared destiny, a sense of shared endeavour and a common life that we lead together.”

  • The key problems Obama has is that a) he is the incumbent in a still shaky economy  and b) Romney lies glibly and shamelessly in a way which it is extremely difficult to respond to off the cuff – particularly if your whole career is based on not being an angry black man.

    Plus Obama did not have to go through the endless Republican primary debates which absurd as they often were can now be seen as Romney’s Boot Camp or better a School for Scoundrels rewarding as they did the ability to tell the biggest whoppers with a straight face. 

  • Robert_Crosby

    The other problem with Obama is that, like Blair, his first term has been underwhelming for the people who need him in office the most.  I don’t subscribe to the hackneyed consensus that the guy remains covered in “stardust”… better than any Republican, obviously – but that hardly enthuses his supporters. 

  • Brumanuensis

    Good lord but Obama was bad. Watching the debates last night I was initially annoyed by his sheer passivity and complete failure to hit back at Romney – who lied continuously, but did so fluently, articulately and with excellent debate technique – whilst instead indulging in pointlessly wonky, meandering passages on arcane points of law and legislation. I say annoyed ‘initially’, because I soon began to fear that something terrible was happening in the world that he knew about, but which hadn’t been announced yet and which was weighing on his mind. 

    So Obama was dire, but then again so was Bush in the first debate in 2004 and he came back strongly afterwards. If it shakes Obama out of his passivity, this may be a beneficial ‘shellacking’.

    But Jesus wept, was Obama bad. He made Brown look like Cicero, by comparison.

    • rekrab

      Rhetorical Obama! give Romney enough rope and he’ll hang himself and I guess that’s exactly what happened, a 7 trillion spending spree on tax cuts for the rich and more weapons to be balanced by cutting social security.Sometimes wisdom is more effective when silent.


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