Only time will tell how much of a boost Republican challenger Mitt Romney will get from his debate win over President Obama.
The president seemed flatfooted and unprepared to respond to Romney’s shift toward the center, even though Romney’s campaign had suggested that’s exactly what they would do – use the Etch-a-Sketch to pivot away from the extreme right toward a more moderate stance during the general election campaign.
The debate felt like a replay of the scenario that has played out so often over the past four years: aggressive Republicans concealing their real motives and putting passive Democrats on the defensive.
Romney was acting every bit the CEO in charge, telling the customers what he thought they wanted to hear to make the sale; in this case, that his deficit reduction scheme wouldn’t favor the wealthy and damage the middle-class.
The contrast between CEO Romney talking to voters (customers) and CEO Romney talking to his big contributors (his board of directors) at a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. in May couldn’t have been starker. In what he thought were private remarks that have now blown up, Romney, you recall, dismissed the 47 percent of the country that supports Obama as self-pitying moochers who need to be taken care by the government.
We know that all politicians say one thing in public and another in private. That’s not a shock. But what’s striking is just how much contempt CEO Romney expressed for nearly half the voters when he was talking to the people who will hold real power in his administration: his board of directors.
Most CEOs wouldn’t let such feelings slip, even in private. But just as Romney told the Denver audience what he thought it wanted to hear at the debate, so too he was telling his contributors what he thought would please them.
Because make no mistake, plenty of the big money is preparing to work with whoever gets elected in November to launch a major offensive against Social Security and Medicare as well as to end tax breaks that favor the middle class, such as the mortgage interest tax break, under the guise of backing a new grand bargain to balance the budget.
For example, billionaire hedge fund executive Pete Peterson, who has also spent $458 million of his own money to push an austerity agenda, is now backing a bipartisan group known as Campaign to Fix the Debt. Ryan Grim at Huffington Post reports that the initiative has raised $30 million so far, including $5 million from a single unnamed donor.
The operation has hired 25 to 30 staffers, with plans to double, Grim reports. Along with a paid-media campaign, aims to influence press coverage in 40 states with locally focused teams.
This “bipartisan” initiative is just the latest attempt by Wall Street and its allies to pass the costs of the government deficits created by the financial crisis on to the middle class and those who can least afford it. Though President Obama has said he won’t let these programs be cut in a way that hurts the most vulnerable, to keep that promise he’ll have to grow backbone that was missing Monday night – and through much of his first term.