Team Obama: Don't expect debate 'zingers' from president
September 30th, 2012
05:05 PM ET
2 years ago

Team Obama: Don't expect debate 'zingers' from president

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's re-election campaign said Sunday the president likely won't be flinging barbs during this week's presidential debate.

"If you're expecting that, that's probably not what he's going to deliver," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One. "He's speaking directly to the American people, and what they want to hear is what his plan is for moving the country forward."

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Psaki was referring to reports that the president's opponent, Mitt Romney, was "working on zingers" and memorizing short attack lines to fire off at the president during Wednesday's debate in Denver, the first presidential showdown this cycle.

Her comments came as the president flew to Nevada, where he holds a rally in Las Vegas Sunday night before staying off the trail and in debate preparation for the final few days leading up to the event in Denver.

Psaki added the president's focus will be more trained on the audience at home than his competitor on stage.

"This will be a very large audience. He wants to speak directly to the families, the people on their couches at home, having snacks, drinking a beer, drinking a soda, whatever it is, and tuning in for the first time. And that's who he's speaking directly to," she said.

Continuing to lower expectations - a game both campaigns have played for well over a week - Psaki added Obama's White House duties have limited his debate preparation, saying it's "difficult to schedule significant blocks of time when you're the president."

As part of his practice, however, Psaki said the debate team has been watching debates that date back years, including Romney's face-offs with Republicans and Democrats. They note Romney's experience, especially in the Republican primary this year, has trained the candidate to perform well.

"(Romney) has been disciplined and been able to give short answers, so we know that's a strength," Psaki said, adding that Obama on the other hand has a "tendency to give longer substantive answers."

She continued to set the bar high for Romney, saying the Republican nominee and "his team have been clear, what they need, what they expect from the debates is a game-changing performance."

Asked why Obama was holding his debate prep in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Psaki said Nevada was a "key state for us" and pointed to the early voting start date of October 20.


Filed under: 2012 • President Obama
soundoff (176 Responses)
  1. Borderless

    Other things we can't expect from the president: honesty; substance; workable ideas...

    Things we can expect: Lies; empty promises; lofty, meaningless prose...

    September 30, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Obama has so much ammunition against Mittens, so I hope this does not hurt him in the long run. As for zingers, Mittens will claim that he is no George Bush, and he is right, "W" was a helluva lot smarter than Mittens.

    September 30, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. Wake up people!

    Make no mistake, President Obama fights back, but that's only after being attacked. He doesn't make very many zingers, he speaks facts. Zingers are for the slightly intelligent since that's all they really understand. But that is the new Republican party. You can all thank Sarah Palin for the complete dumbing down of your party.

    OBAMA 2012!

    September 30, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    "When we get to Thursday morning, you'll be saying it's a brand new race with 33 days to go," Christie said."

    Christie doesn't think very highly of the intelligence of American voters, does he? Then again, neither Romney or Ryan think very highly of America voters either. Can't ever remember voting for a presidential candidate whom I felt was talking down to me. Romney and Ryan do just that - talk down. When they aren't completely laughing at Americans behind our backs, that is. Thankfully, both have been exposed as the jerks they truly are BEFORE the election. Can't even begin to imagine what these two thought they would get away with AFTER the election. We'll never know and THAT is the best thing yet for America.

    September 30, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Getoverit

    Don't expect the truth from Obama either, just like in 2008.

    September 30, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    Anything that the President says will be about everything and anything the twit has stood for and now doesn't or has said and now has taken it back.
    I am sure the bully bishop will have his hands full of what he said just one sentence before. Never mind years, months ago and now he wants to take it all back.-

    September 30, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  7. gregg

    He is using the debates to speak directly to the people at home, not to squabble with Romney. That is a very smart move.

    September 30, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. labman57

    Zingers expected from Romney? Perhaps he will follow the lead of some right wing bloggers and make derisive remarks about Obama's mamma.

    Or perhaps Mitt will head the advice given by Gingrich:
    If you don't like the question or don't know the answer, behave indignantly and insult the person asking the question, and then give a stump speech on an unrelated topic.

    Alas, this is a debate, not amateur night at the local comedy club.
    Maybe Mitt will follow up his shtick with some "fancy pageant walking ..."

    September 30, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. Karoline

    That will be refreshing. I am tired of the zingers – they are not very presidential – at all. It would be nice to hear some real plans – including the what, how, who. and how it will be paid for.

    September 30, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. 200 TON HAMMER

    Mr President Obama moveing like a fast Attack Submarine,just waiting for the moment too Torpedo Mittens Records in the Deep Blue waters of MiddleClass Reality Ocean.

    September 30, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. optimistmiser

    How is it fair to burden today's children with the debts incurred and to be incurred to cover the excessive fed govt spending so that today's adults can have a better life than the children will have.

    September 30, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  12. Karl Jonas

    If Romney thinks zingers and short attack lines will change the course of this election, then he is dumber than I thought he was. The entire Romney/Ryan campaign has consisted of zingers and short attack lines. If he doesn't reveal some details of what he would do as president, but continues with "trust me I'll fill you in after you elect me" while attacking Obama... he is toast.

    September 30, 2012 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  13. Oy

    Short answers are a "strength" compared to longer, substantive answers? What is she smoking?

    September 30, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  14. Bernard obryant

    Wow hmmm if romney can win the debate it might win but if 47percent brough up i dont think so

    September 30, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    I like this president. He is straight forward. Passed healthcare reform, killed Bin Laden, saved GM.

    September 30, 2012 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  16. jubilirao

    President is an artist for delivering messages of substance and everyone expects a sublime performance from him and there is no one in the Democratic party or in opposition to match him.

    September 30, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  17. John

    Romney will have some snappy come-backs for Obama, you betcha. Being a snarky twit worked so well for Palin, the Republicans decided to try this one out again. Romney is still the same bully he was in prep school. When was the last time you heard that the country was at "orange alert' and it didn't mean we need to get more orange juice. Are things better compared to 4 years ago? I'll answer that when we drop to 'green alert". Oh, wait – Bush and Cheney aren't running the country into the ground now. Yes, its much better now. Thanks!

    September 30, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  18. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney is already at a disadvantage. He is trying to sell toxic snake oil to the American people.

    September 30, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  19. kashbmaryd

    It's going to be a good debate whether the president feeds into Romney's on-stage antics or not.

    September 30, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  20. Riteaidbob

    Trust me...I don't expect ANYTHING from this president.

    September 30, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  21. laughoutloud

    His record is so garbage, how could he possible think "going forward" is what he'll do? This guy thinks we're all morons – but its just his liberal base who are.

    Expect nothing but zingers, he got nuttin else.

    September 30, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  22. Becky

    What I would love to hear him say: look, Governor Romney, I think you're a good man. You're trying to serve your country, and I don't believe for a moment that you only want to serve half of it. You and I both know that being President involves a ridiculous amount of stress and far less ability to steer the ship of state than many would imagine. If it were just a choice between you and me, I still think the voters would be wise to choose me but at least it would be a reasonable choice. The problem is that you don't lead your party, it leads you. We can see that in the positions you've been forced to take to get the nomination, and especially in your VP pick. In the last 4 years I've struggled to focus on taking sensible positions that are not driven by ideology but by my real judgment of the best choice to make for the American people. I may have been wrong, sometimes or often - I'm only human - but I've made an honest attempt, and I believe America is better off for my efforts, even though the left of my party is frustrated by what they see as my unwillingness to be bold. Your published policies are so far from honest that I can only believe that they are an attempt to placate the far right wing of your party. Why should the voters believe that you will do something different once you're in office?

    September 30, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  23. mjw

    We believe in you Mr. President. Remember the call to Gideon....you are a man of valor and though you may not see us all, there are more for you than against. BE BLESSED!!!!

    September 30, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. iadadman

    These "debates" are so funny.

    "This will be a very large audience. He wants to speak directly to the families"

    It's like Romney is just an inconvenience that happens to be on stage at the same time. The Romney team is far more crass to be talking about 'zingers.' As though presidential elections can turn on some catchy little quip that digs into your opponent. Oh, wait, they can. Of course, that's the only real difference between these goofy things and a stump speech. The annoyance is right there on stage with you. Of course Obama will try to help Romney look like a fool.

    The problem, of course, with Romney trying to get off zingers is that he doesn't have the narrative on his side in the first place. Zingers hit home because they reinforce a preconceived idea. But Romney is the bully who pinned a kid to the floor with a gang of kids and cut his hair. The guy who steered a blind teacher into a wall to get laughs from his classmates. The same guy who expressed such disdain for 47% of Americans. Tough to turn that around with a 'zinger' on a president who has been nothing if not dignified.

    The evening should provide a few chuckles. The only way it could really get hairy for either of them is if the mcs, er, 'moderators,' design the questions in such a way to back one or the other of them against the wall.

    It's worth making popcorn and cracking a cold one, anyway.

    September 30, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  25. GI Joe

    If Romney "zings" and President Obama doesn't, it will make Romney look even smaller and more petty. Fact. And if Romney deliberately tries to "get under his skin" it will prove Romney is still just a juvenile bully.

    What a jerk Romney is. He would be worse on the world stage than Amadinnerjacket.

    September 30, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
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