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US Presidential Campaigns Offer Preview of Debate Rematch

Michael Bowman

October 15, 2012

Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is promising a more-engaged performance by the president in Tuesday’s debate rematch with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Both campaigns are expressing confidence in their candidate’s ability to make a strong case to the American people in the second of three nationally-televised encounters.

It has been nearly two weeks since President Barack Obama gave what even his most ardent supporters regarded as a weak and uninspiring performance against a crisp-speaking and seemingly well-rehearsed former Governor Romney. Tuesday’s face-off in New York will provide an opportunity for the president to make a better case for his re-election, according to senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

“I think he is going to be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country, and a country that is built around a growing, thriving middle class,” he said.

Axelrod spoke on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday.

Since the first debate, the president has seen a substantial lead in public-opinion polls evaporate, and Mitt Romney has spoken to larger, more enthusiastic crowds at campaign appearances. Axelrod says the Obama campaign is not panicking over the turn of events.

“As I have said throughout, even when the polls were wildly positive for us, that these public polls are all over the place [fluctuate], and the reality of the race on the ground is that we are ahead," he said. "It is a little bit narrower than it was before the last debate, but we feel good about where we are.”

Meanwhile, Governor Romney will continue to deliver a message that is resonating with the American people, according to senior campaign adviser Ed Gillespie.

“The governor is going to do what he did in the last debate. He is going to talk about his agenda," he said. "He is going to talk about his policies. They are in very sharp contrast. There is a big-choice election here.”

Gillespie says Romney expects to face a more-assertive President Obama, but said whatever debating style the president employs will be of little consequence.

“Even if he changes his style - whatever political tactic the president settles on - he cannot change his record and he cannot change his policies," added Gillespie.

A third presidential debate next week will focus on foreign affairs. Last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is sure to be a major focus of the encounter. Republicans continue to accuse the Obama administration of incompetence and deceit in their handling of the tragedy.

Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation program, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham accused the administration of placing political interests ahead of the national interest.

“They are trying to sell a narrative that the Middle East wars are receding and al-Qaida has been dismantled," said Graham. "And to admit that our embassy was attacked by al-Qaida operatives, and leading Libya from behind did not work, undercuts that narrative. I think they have been misleading us, but it [events in Libya] finally caught up with them.”

But Democratic lawmakers accuse Republicans of seeking their own political advantage.

“We will search the killers down and bring them to justice," said Congressman Elijah Cummings is the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. "The one thing we must not do is treat it as a political football, and I think that is basically what is happening. This conspiracy stuff is kind of ridiculous, to be honest with you.”

At a hearing last week, the committee heard from U.S. officials who had expressed concern about security at the Benghazi consulate and recommended a strengthening of security measures prior to the attack.

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