Maddow Asks Plouffe If Debate Strategy Was For Obama to Be a Wimp

Give the woman credit, this would explain it.

After last night's debate in Denver, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked Obama adviser David Plouffe to be "candid" in explaining the president's lackluster performance (video after page break)

Plouffe seemed to take umbrage at what Maddow was suggesting --

MADDOW: One last question for you and it is a little bit on the style of this and I realize that you are a policy guy as much as you are a candidate guy. But I do just have to ask you to be candid on this -- was there a deliberate strategy on your part to tell the president to not attack Mitt Romney? He never talked directly to Mitt Romney and told him that he was being wrong about things. The one time he got closest to that, when he said is, your strategy right now is to say never mind about your previous tax plan. That was as close as he got to actually taking on Mitt Romney and confronting him. Were you trying to make the president appear essentially softer in terms of his personality so that he wouldn't be somehow more alienating or more abrasive in a way that you thought wouldn't work for people?

PLOUFFE: No, not at all, Rachel, and again I think I would take some issue with that because I think the president was very forceful in challenging Gov. Romney on his $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy. I think he was very forceful on pressing Mitt Romney on why a Medicare voucher program would be disastrous for our seniors. I think the president was very forceful on explaining that Romney wants to roll back Wall Street regulations. So, I think on those core issues that really matter to voters, uh, again, we didn't enter this debate as an opportunity for a zinger every minute (translation: I didn't send my boxer into the ring to punch his opponent). Our approach was, uh, a story telling (yes -- "story telling") that's consistent with what we did in the convention, what the president's going to do tomorrow here in Denver and tomorrow in Wisconsin, what we'll do for the next 34 days to make sure people understand if you're a middle class voter in this country, you can't trust Mitt Romney 'cause he's going to take us back to the same policies in many cases on steroids that devastated our economy and the middle class and the president's got a plan to rebuild this economy from the middle out.

Juxtapose this query from Maddow with her initial reaction after the debate ended, when she actually said she wasn't sure who won (video here) --

In terms of how the overall debate unfolded, uh, I personally do not know, uh, who won this debate. I do feel that we saw, uh, this debate format die a very painful death on camera tonight. (laughs) Uh, the contrast between the candidates, uh, was stylistic as much as substantive. President Obama, I think, calm and professorial and basically explanatory tonight. Uh, Gov. Romney more, uh, more hyper and I don't mean that in a negative way (much as "phony" was a compliment on "Seinfeld") but just sort of more amped, more assertive, uh, and that manifest in a way that the debate format was just dismantled, uh, the format and I think the moderator, honestly, with all due respect to Mr. Lehrer, just absolutely dismantled, uh, tonight during the debate. Uh, we'll have to do the word count but I think this was one of those, this is one of those debates that if it were a football game, you could tell, you could predict the, uh, the score more by time of possession in terms of who was speaking more, uh, than you could by any other individual plays.

In other words, Romney could be deemed the winner if only because he talked longer -- which he didn't, according to Maddow's MSNBC colleague and McCain '08 strategist Steve Schmidt, who pointed out shortly thereafter that Obama spoke four minutes longer than Romney.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts