Mitt Romney plans to turn himself into a one-man truth squad during the first presidential debate next week, casting President Barack Obama as someone who can’t be trusted to stick to the facts or keep his promises.
Top Republicans are telegraphing Romney’s hard-line strategy for his faceoff with Obama, according to Mike Allen’s Playbook in POLITICO on Thursday. The debate plan comes during a presidential cycle where media fact-checkers have held a high profile and where an earlier effort by Democrats to cast GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan as untrustworthy got results.
Romney himself was the first to signal the strategy.
“I think he’s going to say a lot of things that aren’t accurate,” Romney said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” earlier this month, adding he would have to choose between correcting Obama and delivering his own message.
“I’d be tempted to go back to that wonderful line by Ronald Reagan, ‘There you go again,'” Romney said.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is playing Obama in Romney’s debate prep, told POLITICO he needed to replicate the president’s ability to explain “the issue from his perspective, hedging on the truth sometimes by doing so.”
And in another sign of the Republican strategy heading into the debate on Wednesday in Denver, Karl Rove used his Wall Street Journal column Thursday to advise Romney to call out Obama’s misstatements, without actually calling the president a liar.
“While Mr. Romney must point out the president’s misrepresentations, he can’t take on the role of fact-checker-in-chief,” wrote Rove, who runs a constellation of outside groups spending millions on ads attacking Obama and backing Romney. “He should dealcomprehensively with several of Mr. Obama’s untruths and, having done so, dismiss the rest as more of the same. By carefully calling into question the president’s veracity, Mr. Romney will have the opportunity to provide context: Mr. Obama doesn’t shoot straight because he can’t defend his record and has no agenda for the future except the status quo, stay the course.”
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Romney’s strategy would be hypocritical.
“Mitt Romney and his team have a tendency to you know, to look at the president and make outrageous accusations about his truthfulness,” Psaki said. “If Mitt Romney weer Pinocchio, his nose would be reaching from Virginia to Ohio with the number of lies and untruths in the ads that his team has put out.”