You don't know whether to laugh or cry upon reading the Sunday night shots campaign Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen at Politico took at Mitt Romney and his campaign.
Maybe these guys really believe that the Romney campaign is the one which still desperately needs a "last chance to move the needle in any significant way in the swing states that will decide the election," and that "Obama is slightly better positioned in the states that will dictate the outcome." If they do, my take is that the Romney campaign is playing possum, and the Politico pair, infused with Beltway naiveté and skewed polling data, are gullibly buying it. Several paragraphs from their effort follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):
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Mitt Romney’s toughest debate
Mitt Romney has a clear-eyed and self-aware view of his chances in the final debate Monday, according to top advisers: It will be almost impossible to win, since the debate is focused exclusively on foreign policy, a strength for President Barack Obama.
This view isn’t merely about expectations-setting. Romney’s top advisers authentically worry that the swing voters they need to woo care little about foreign affairs right now. And, even if they did, the differences between the two men on many of the highest-profile issues — ending the Afghan war and the bloodshed in Syria — are too slight to draw sharp distinctions.
Even if Romney does bring his A game, Obama joked last week about his debate strategy for winning the showdown in Florida: “Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden.” It’s not a joke that he said it, or that he uses that conquest to maximum political advantage in debates and speeches to show strength and achievement.
Note that the Benghazi debacle, which has laid bare the incumbent administration's lethal and keister-covering foreign-policy incoherence in the Middle East, isn't even considered a major factor (though it's discussed later and identified as an are where Obama is "vulnerable"). As to the killing of bin Laden, if you put on the hat of a pre-2009 Democrat you would suggest that the past 1-1/2 years of spiking the football has inflamed passions in the Middle East and motivated jihadist factions to ramp up the violence. But now that they're in charge, that's apparently all okay.
... “So far, Romney is batting zero when it comes to landing a punch on foreign policy or national security,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a Democratic-leaning think tank that advocates “a tough and centrist security strategy.”
... (Romney's) vision isn’t dramatically different than Obama’s on foreign policy. They both want to continue aggressive terrorist-killing policies, prevent a nuclear Iran, stop the atrocities in Syria without committing U.S. troops and essentially maintain the status quo in Iraq.
Both candidates want to distort the reality that on the big issues of the day, there is a lot of commonality: Obama over four years has shifted to what amounts to the Bush view of aggressive anti-terrorism policies, while Romney and Republicans have shifted the Democrats’ way on getting out of the two biggest wars of this young century. Both candidates are uncertain — and less specific about — how to handle the new spike in Middle East turmoil.
I guess "essentially maintain(ing) the status quo in Iraq" means quietly trying to initiate one-on-one talks, if we're to believe the report from the New York Times on Sunday.
A more grounded view of the stakes tonight can be found (of course) from Chris Stirewalt at Fox News:
After a Rotten Month, Obama Needs to Dominate Debate
Team Obama was positively giddy about the prospect of being able to close the debate series with an extended remix of the president’s central argument in defense of his term: General Motors is alive and Usama bin Laden is dead.
But as we come to the day of the debate, the situation looks very different. Romney is now tied with the president in a head-to-head match up among likely voters in the Journal poll and has momentum on his side. And on foreign policy, the Republican challenger cut Obama’s advantage in half.
The only reason Obama has any remaining advantage is, as NewsBusters has pointed out on several occasions (here, here, here, here, and several others), the establishment press isn't giving the Benghazi debacle the visibility it deserves.
Perhaps that will change tonight. Contrary to the Politico pair cited earlier, from Romney's perspective, despite "top advisers" who appear to be playing possum, tonight's debate is eminently winnable.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.