In pre-debate spin, Romney is winning by losing

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

In the desperate battle to shape public expectations over Wednesday’s presidential debate in Denver, Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be winning-by-losing.

Most prospective voters expect him to lose the face-to-face debate, so he has a greater opportunity to surprise and reassure voters who might switch support from President Barack Obama to the GOP candidate.

“The best news for Romney going into the debates is that voters have very low expectations for him and therefore the bar for him to change some minds is set lower than it is for the president,” said a survey released Oct. 2 by Quinnipiac University.

Fifty-four percent of respondents predicted Obama will win the debate, while only 28 percent thought Romney would win, said the poll of 1,912 likely voters.

The Quinnipiac survey was matched by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, whose poll of 1,001 adults — including 828 registered voters — reported “that by a 51%-29% margin, more voters say Obama will do better than Romney in Wednesday’s debate.”

The Pew poll was released Oct. 2.

The Quinnipiac respondents support Obama 49 percent to 45 percent, partly because Obama has a reported 18-point advantage among women.

However, Obama’s advantage isn’t solid. Eleven percent of Quinnipiac’s respondents say they could switch their votes, according to the report.

That 11 percent includes 16 percent of independents and 12 percent of women.

Even 14 percent of African-Americans said they could change their views, despite African-Americans’ near universal support for Obama. The poll reports that only 2 percent of African-Americans say they will vote for Romney.

Flacks for both sides continue to wrestle down expectations for their candidate, and boost expectations for their opponent.

“I think the one thing that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon is the President is a gifted speaker. He has amazing rhetoric. He can go out there and wow a crowd. That is his strength,” Sean Spicer, the GOP’s spokesman, told CNN Oct. 2.

“The folks from the Obama campaign have talked down the expectations from the President so many days in a row that today I expect them to come out and say that the President’s got a fear of public speaking,” he added.

Democratic National Council spokesman Brad Woodhouse tried to raise the bar for Romney by claiming that he has to provide policy details to win the debate.

“The bar should be high for Mitt Romney… he’s not said how he pays for his tax plan… or how he’ll shore up Medicare or Social Security to protect benefits instead of cutting them.”

Several GOP advocates, however, say Romney must avoid excessive details, on instead reassure voters that he’ll do a better job in aiding the crippled economy and calming their economic worries.

Follow Neil on Twitter