Guidelines for tonight’s debate.

Howard Fineman, writing for the Huffington Post, has a somewhat rambling piece about what to expect in the debate. Sadly, I think Fineman is just one more of the pundits who only sees the debates as an atheltic event.

Howard is obviously correct when he states that Romney has a robot problem. Where Reagan had to dispel his image as the man from 20 Mule Team Boraxo, Romney has to somehow convince people that a cold hearted expert in arbitrage will make the right decisions as president.

I  expect that Romney will not even try to play Reagan.  If he goes that way, Mitt will fall off the lead mule and the remaining 19 mules will each go their own way.  Maybe some of the mules will decide to become donkeys?

Whatever the incompetence of the Rmoney campaign I cannot see someone as successful as Mitt Romney going that route.

What I do expect is that he will try to portray himself as a  as a highly skilled businessman ready to offer his services to the country.

Given Romney’s arrogance, I suspect Team Romney will attempt to force Obama into areas where they believe Mitt’s economic skills will show.

If I am right, these are the kinds of questions that Romney will want to answer or will want to turn to his sort of answers?

1. Mr. Romney, if you had been president in in 2008 how would you have handled the economic crisis?

2. Mr. Romney, budget analysts have said that without the Americans for Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) healthcare costs to the government will escalate by hundreds of millions of dollars.  If you dump the ACA, how will you restrain this jump in the budget?

3. Mr. Romney, shortly after one of you wins this election, the Congress is going to encounter the “fiscal cliff.” Assuming you agree that this would be a disaster and oppose any tax cuts, what budget cuts would you propose that would be adequate to prevent the fiscal cliff?

4. Mr. Romney, your campaign has been built on your expertise as the founder of Bain capital. Can you give us specific examples from that experience about how you would restructure the government in order to be more efficient?

5. Mr. Romney, with the exception of countries run by unelected oligarchs, for example China and Singapore, the most successful economies since the Great Recession have been countries you regard as socialist, e.g. Sweden, Canada, and Germany.  Do you regard China as a model for the American economic system?

6. Mr. Romney, both you and Mr. Obama have stressed the importance of a revitalization of the United States by creation of manufacturing jobs.  However, as the president of being, you worked to optimize return for investors. If it is less expensive to run an assembly factory for Apple in China, why should Apple create such a plant in the US?

While these questions provide an opportunity for Romney to demonstrate his talents as a businessman, I suspect that he will underestimate the ability of Mr. Obama to respond in kind. Barack Obama is a very bright man and a very good student.  On the other hand, Mr. Romney has a terrible Achilles’ heel. Romney’s own taxes undermine an effort to play the beneficent businessman.  This is true, even without the tax returns he has refused to release.

For example:

Last year Mitt Romney received almost $10 million in non-taxable income via a very strange use of his IRA.  How does this image of not paying taxes, even if legal, jibe with Romney’s disparaging remarks about the 47%?

Obama would be a fool not to use Romney’s foreign bank accounts as an example of the terrible problems with our current system. The best that Mitt could do would be to claim ignorance because of the “blind trust.” If he were to do that all that Obama would need would be raised eyebrows.

Another example of unforgivable, if legal, excess is the Romney’s use of their horse as a tax deduction.  Any effort to justify this exclusion of $77,000 of income, would again be easily responded to with raised presidential eyebrows.

In summary, my scenario is very different for Mr. Fineman’s.  I expect Romney to accept the image of the hard nosed, somewhat clumsy in public, businessman. He will do this by disparaging his own manners. At the same time, he will try to move the debate to areas where Romney believes he has intellectual superiority… That is the manipulation of money.


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