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Inside the Beltway: Let Obama be Obama?

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2012

It's likely President Obama will be in combat mode, ready to assume alpha male status on Tuesday evening when he faces Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate. But alas. The debate is town hall style, which demands folksy likability from the combatants, and conversation studded with talking points. It is not an ideal forum for the president to shore up his status as grand elocutionist following a tepid appearance in the first debate.

A generous pool of undecided voters will question the two hopefuls, the process moderated by CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. But there's melodrama. Both campaigns have fretted that Ms. Crowley will chime in with her own queries. Indeed, she actually determines which questions get asked, and told fellow CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer Monday that, uh, why yes, "there is a time after that for follow-up and for furthering the discussion." The grass-roots intimacy of a town hall may prevail, though.

"It is very easy for politicians to run over a reporter -- they don't care. There is no price to be paid for being rude to a reporter, not answering the question. But 80 undecided voters looking at you, and some of them getting up and going, 'Well, what about this?' It's just harder to dodge," Ms. Crowley also explained in an separate interview with CNN.

AND IN THE STREETS

There seem to be plenty of opportunities for political groups to strut their stuff during the debate. And no wonder. Hofstra University is offering eight hours of public speaking before, during and after the debate in a designated parking lot outside the debate hall, complete with public address system.

"The university will not regulate the content of any speech," officials say. And among the 40 groups that will have their say outside as the candidates hold forth within: LaRouche PAC, Veterans for Peace, Occupy Wall Street, Green Party, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Empire State NORML, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, Hofstra Students for Liberty, Act for Sudan, Communities and Postal Workers United, United for Change USA, Brooklyn for Peace, Humanity Is Us and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.

PRE-DEBATE DEBATE

Some question the timing of "Race 2012," a prime-time PBS documentary set to air on 360 member stations on Tuesday from 8-9 p.m., in the golden hour before the presidential debate begins. The network itself says the program is "surprising" and provocative.

"As recently as 1980, 80 percent of the United States was white. The 2010 census showed that the country's overall population is now slightly less than 64 percent white," says advance production notes.

"Conservatives tend to assume Asian Americans vote conservatively because as a group they're considered hard-working, industrious and entrepreneurial -- characteristics stereotypically associated with white Americans. Yet the Asian-American community consistently votes 2 to 1 for liberal candidates," PBS also explains.

"For the first time in 70 years, the majority of white parents believe their children will not be financially better off than themselves, while African Americans and Hispanics are now considerably more optimistic about the next generation," the broadcaster adds.

Documentary filmmaker and talk radio host John Ziegler was interviewed for the documentary, though he says his comments about President Obama were "specifically edited out, and only people of color were 'allowed' to comment." He contends the program is "fundamentally biased against both whites and conservatives," and that it charges the Romney campaign with racism.

"I find it incredibly disappointing that my tax dollars are going to help air a film which essentially censors my perspective after I spent well over two hours being interviewed for it, insults my race, and accuses my presidential candidate, without a shred of evidence, of being a racist. The only thing more upsetting than this is that it is not unexpected and will likely go largely unnoticed," Mr. Ziegler tells Inside the Beltway.

A SPORTING CHANCE

Interesting membership in the brand new Sportsmen for Romney, a coalition of hunters, fishermen, and conservationists that went public Monday. Among the national co-chairs: comedian Jeff Foxworthy, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, baseball great Wade Boggs and Olympian Kim Rhode, plus a huge host of outdoorsy governors and lawmakers. And among the national advisers: Leigh Perkins, CEO of Orvis, the upscale fishing outfitter; celebrity fisherman Roland Martin and Ron Coburn, CEO of Savage Sports. Among supporting organizations: the Wild Sheep Foundation, Archery Trade Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation.

CULTURAL MOMENT

"The tea party will win in the end. This is a nation that loathes government and always has. Liberals should not be deluded: The Goldwater revolution will ultimately triumph, regardless of what happens in November," proclaims New York magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich in a lengthy analysis of the political climate. Yes, this is the same Frank Rich who was a New York Times columnist from 1980 to 2011.

"No matter how many times the conservative bogeyman came back from the dead along the way, liberals were shocked at every resurrection. Whether it was the rise of Reagan, the coming of Scalia-Thomas "originalism" to the Supreme Court, or the Gingrich revolution of 1994, we were always gobsmacked," Mr. Rich notes. "Such is the power of denial that we simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all."

POLL DU JOUR

• 58 percent of Obama supporters and 53 percent of Romney supporters feel "anxious" about how their candidate would perform as president in the next four years.

• 49 percent of Americans overall are confident that if President Obama is elected, the nation will get back on track economically in the next year or two; 37 percent are "not confident at all."

• 49 percent are confident that if Mitt Romney is elected, the nation will get back on track economically; 29 percent are not confident at all.

• 46 percent would prefer to have Mr. Obama as an employee rather than Mr. Romney.

• 46 percent would prefer to have Mr. Romney as an employee rather than Mr. Obama.

Source: A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,252 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 10-13.

Squawks, growls, coos to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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